There's only one company controlling the organic beef industry, according to the IFA.

Following its purchase of Good Herdsmen, ABP now controls over 90% of the organic beef that is processed in the Republic, IFA organic project team chair Nigel Renaghan has said.

The comments came at a sitting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture on Tuesday evening, where Renaghan took aim at the low prices received by organic farmers.

“It's little wonder that the price is where it is. ABP should be setting a minimum of €5.40/kg or €5.50kg for beef, if not more. I know in Scotland, it's over €6/kg.”

Producer group

Renaghan went on to tackle a failed contract between the Irish Organic Beef Producers Association and Good Herdsmen.

“We had a situation where the [Irish Organic Beef Producers] Association was supplying Good Herdsmen on a three year deal, at 35 to 40 cattle per week,” Renaghan said.

“In the middle of all that the farmers were shafted. They were told they weren’t wanted anymore and the contracts were torn up.

“Since that, contact has been made with the same group of farmers. They [Good Herdsmen] said they wouldn't deal with the group, but would deal with farmers individually.”

Renaghan told the committee that the group of farmers have been a price of €5/kg by Good Herdsmen.

Good Herdsman managing director John Purcell told the Irish Farmers Journal that the three year contract was honoured.

“When the initial three year contract concluded we began negotiating a new contract but unfortunately talks broke down. We are in the process of establishing a new contract with the association currently.

“Organic suppliers are receiving €5/kg for beef. We want to embrace all organic farmers. We don’t want to have a two tier system of producer groups and individual farmers receiving different prices.”

Lack of ambition

Also speaking at Tuesday’s meeting was Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association spokesperson Henry O’Donnell.

“I believe the Department of Agriculture, Board Bia and all the other bodies involved have absolutely no real ambition to promote organic farming," O'Donnell said.

“I think the scoring system on the last scheme, actually put off a lot of farmers. I know farmers who applied the last time and had farmed organically for almost a year, only to be told they weren't successful.

“We need some ambition here, we have fabulous products, such as lamb, that need to be promoted actively.”