Meat factories have the scope to significantly increase prices but are refusing to do so despite massive hikes in farm input costs, according to Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) beef chair Edmund Graham.

Graham described the current situation as a case of "can pay more, won’t pay more" when it comes to processors and beef prices.

"Throughout the month of November, prices here have failed to keep up with average EU prices.

"We are now languishing at almost €0.20c/kg below the EU average for prime cattle, and that’s just not sustainable."

Direct comparison

Graham outlined comparisons between the prices beef farmers are experiencing in the UK and Australia with those found in the Irish beef trade.

“Today in Australia, beef farmers are getting the equivalent of €4.73/kg, while UK farmers are receiving the equivalent of €4.92/kg, excluding VAT.

“All the while, quotes here have been stuck at €4.20-€4.30, including VAT, for months.”

Input costs

Graham said that farmers might have coped with this back in the month of July, but said the current "costly winter feeding" and "increased input costs all round" could wipe out beef farmers.

"Since the summer, the price of beef finisher ration has gone up by €70-€100/t. That is only one cost.

"All our costs are rising exponentially and we cannot allow beef processors to ignore the bare facts around the increased cost of production."

He called on factories to increase prices to "at least the €5/kg mark" and urged them to do so quickly.

"It’s time our processors here started treating winter finishers fairly and woke up to the fact that beef finishers will be wiped out if they don’t," Graham added.