IRELAND – Farming groups are preparing to lobby the government at a beef roundtable this week over processor specifications shunning higher yielding continental breeds.
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) enraged Irish beef producers recently when it imposed a maximum carcass weight of 380 kilos which, alongside other cuts, would exclude 80 per cent of steers.
This is according to the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) which added a further 60 per cent of heifers would now be unacceptable.
Farmers see the announcement as a further threat to a struggling beef sector which is battling high input costs and unviable beef prices.
The IFA called on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney to reject the ‘unworkable weight limits’ and resolve the long term challenges that have plagued the industry.
Association President Eddie Downey accused the weights and specifications of the MII – the country’s beef and lamb processing organisation – of ‘undermining’ the Quality Payment Scheme and the Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme.
“This would be a real backward step for the beef sector,” he warned.
Last week, Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association suckler chairman Dermot Kelleher said a 380 kilo limit is a message that the meat buyers do not want to see continental breeds in the Irish herd.
He said that, along with 16 month bull beef targets, this shows how processors are favouring dairy/beef systems.
“Many years of breeding lean, high grade cattle is now being consigned to the dustbin by the new direction announced by the meat industry,” said Mr Kelleher. “Presumably they will be satisfied with Angus calves out of the dairy herd where the economics are not about quality meat but those are the only cows that can sustain this model.”
He said the announcement confirms farmers must sell off herds, describing the outlook as ‘very poor’ and national beef productivity aspirations as ‘dead’.
Speaking ahead of the Roundtable on the development of the Beef Sector, to be held on 17 April, Mr Kelleher said: “Minister Coveney needs to announce now that Food Harvest 2020 is dead.
“It was a nice idea but it is obvious that the meat industry and the retailing sector is not interested in the suckler sector.”
He urged Teagasc consultants to ‘be honest’ and stop advising farmers to increase productivity or face disastrous results.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney’s message ahead of this week’s beef discussions was that the timing was perfect to plan a bright future.
“The time is now right to sit down with key stakeholders in the sector, to consider the strategic approach needed to support its development,” said Mr Coveney.
“I am convinced that with the right strategic approach and positive collaboration from all of the players, the beef sector in Ireland has a bright future.”
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