Current low beef prices should not “cloud” the long-term gains which will be brought about by Ireland’s green reputation, according to Bord Bia CEO Jim O’Toole.
When asked if he understood farmers’ frustration when they’re told there will be a reward for sustainable produce, but yet prices are not meeting costs of production, O’Toole said it’s a “tough message” to keep delivering.
“It’s a tough message and it’s difficult for farmers at one level, to see this gap between now and the longer term. We know from our engagements with all our customers around the world that this is increasingly important. [Sustainability] is our licence to operate.
“While we have to endure difficult current market conditions, we can’t let that cloud the longer-term picture. Because this is a longer-term play that’s going to ensure that there is a livelihood for Irish farmers, for lamb and for beef going forward,” he said.
On when this long-term sustainability price benefit might come, O’Toole acknowledged he could not “honestly say”.
“We know the direction of travel and that hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s intensified.”
The Bord Bia boss explained that current low beef prices can be attributed to a quiet European market.
“That’s just been a tough selling job really so that has kept demand quiet and that’s why we’re seeing that reflected in prices at the moment,” he said, adding that the aim now is to keep prices “stable” for the next while with the hope things will improve in the autumn.
While welcoming the news that a PGI for grass-fed Irish beef is near being finalised, O’Toole suggested that it won’t be the “magic wand” to beef price challenges.
“It won’t be a magic wand but it will strengthen our argument and help us to drive that recognition at consumer level,” he said.