The scene is getting quite repetitive.
The only difference is that the participants no longer sit around a table but rather sit looking at each other on screens, something we have all got very familiar with in the last few months.
What we have also come to realise is that the Beef Market Taskforce is yet another talking shop, achieving very little.
Keep the dialogue open, keep the reports coming, keep everybody talking and hope that nobody steps out of line seems to be the mantra.
Aside from a few quick wins in the beginning around increased bonuses on cattle, the taskforce has delivered little or nothing for beef finishers.
Indeed, some would argue that these initial quick wins around increased bonuses have been swallowed up by factories just revising down base prices to make it price neutral.
The taskforce heard from Bord Bia on improving markets, Teagasc on a new pricing model and an update on the Grant Thornton Reports.
Last month’s price cuts came up for discussion and Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue fired a few shots at the factories, specifically addressing MII: “Obviously, prices will be subject to market volatility and this is outside our control to a large extent. However, there are elements where certainty can be provided, for example in relation to the application of weight limits and breed bonuses.
“As meat processors, you need to be aware that changing these parameters abruptly is very disruptive for farm families and erodes trust.
“Specifically, the cuts to base price and breed bonuses and the imposition of stricter weight limits came as a major shock to a lot of farmers last month.”
The farm organisations around the table were also extremely vocal on the recent price cuts, demanding to know why it happened.
It happened because it can happen and it will happen again if factories decide to do so and the sad thing is there is very little farmers can do to stop it.
Until some of this power is taken away and more transparency introduced, we can’t expect a lot to change
Factories have been allowed gain too much power in this country with very little transparency in return and while this continues farmers will continue to struggle at the mercy of the processors.
Why did the factories implement those cuts? Was it because of market conditions? Was it to get the store trade back? Did they foresee the current rises in the market and wanted to start rising beef prices from a lower base?
The truth is farmers will never know because that’s the way our industry is set up. Until some of this power is taken away and more transparency introduced, we can’t expect a lot to change.
Grant Thornton report
The taskforce was also presented with the second Grant Thornton report, a review of the market and customer requirements of Irish beef.
Grant Thornton informed the taskforce that it doesn’t have the authority to access the information needed to provide a detailed appraisal of the value of Irish beef from the farm to the consumer.
It’s understood the industry has cited commercial sensitivity with regard to the supply of some of the data and failed to supply all of the information required to form a definitive report.
In summary, the report rubber-stamps the current specifications to which Irish beef finishers adhere to on under 30 months, quality assurance, animal movements and residency period.
However, it lacks detail on key customer requirements on volumes or values. The authors cite the response rate from some customers as being an issue for this.
It will come as no surprise to many that the beef industry has once again closed its doors when it comes to more transparency.
There is still once chance left to reveal all in the third Grant Thornton report – an independent examination of the price composition along the supply chain – but forgive me for not holding out any hope.