Independent Price Regulator needed for Beef Sector
Responding to the crisis in the beef industry and continued nationwide protests, Labour spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Willie Penrose TD called on Minister Creed to immediately convene crisis talks to resolve the issue, with a focus on establishing an independent price regulator.
Deputy Penrose said:
“Smaller farmers are rightly concerned about the future of their livelihoods and they have every right to make their voices heard. Now is the time for intensive talks, led by Minister Creed, which must be focused on the key issues pertaining to price, such as specifications and grading on quality, age and composition of meat.
“Further protests and blockades at this time are counterproductive. With Brexit looming on the horizon, we don’t know how this will affect access to the British market, and we’ve already seen the negative impact of the fall in value of the British pound.
“Food inspection teams from countries like China are currently in Ireland, sizing up the quality of our beef production before deciding on whether to permit Irish exports into their market. These are vital alternative markets for our farmers, and protests run the risk of putting them off.
“Ordinary workers in the beef industry risk being the innocent victims of blockades. They risk being laid off due to a lack of work or because they don’t want to cross a protest organised by their neighbours. This is unfair and I’m sure unintended, as these workers are not the reason for low beef prices.
“Many of the large meat industry conglomerates are unlimited companies, which means that they do not publish their annual accounts. Their claims to be low profit need to be taken with a grain of salt. We need clarity about how much profit is being made by these big companies.
“Minister Creed should convene emergency talks focused on the key factors that feed into the price that farmers get for their product.
“The Government should be preparing legislation to establish a new, transparent beef price regulator, which must be genuinely independent. This legislation should be fast-tracked as soon as the Dáil re-convenes.
“Farm organisations have a role to play in bringing coherence to the concerns of their members. They should prepare to be in a position to attend any reconvened national talks, with an agreed agenda reflecting the issues which are giving rise to this dispute, including the need for an independent price regulator to resolve the longstanding issue of beef prices in a way that is fair to all farmers and workers.”