Senior management from all of the major beef processing companies attended Thursday’s meeting of the Beef Market Taskforce.
It was the 10th meeting of the taskforce, with farm organisations and processors presented with the current beef market situation and outlook from Bord Bia and an update from the Department of Agriculture on the status of EU free trade agreement negotiations.
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) sits on the taskforce, representing the factories.
Representatives from the meat processors, following an invitation from chair Michael Dowling, joined the meeting to discuss the market situation, future challenges and opportunities, and to respond to specific issues raised by taskforce members.
The meeting also discussed progress on the implementation of actions under the beef sector agreement of September 2019.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said he was encouraged to see the direct engagement between the processors and the beef taskforce.
“As I have previously stated, strong constructive engagement across the supply chain is necessary,” he said.
The three market transparency studies commissioned by the Department are now completed, with the Minister stating that they will act as an important starting point for further work on transparency.
“I hope that this work will be carried forward by the new office of the national food ombudsman or regulator, to be established by primary legislation,” he said.
The Minister has also announced that he has asked Michael Dowling to provide him with a detailed report on the work of the Beef Market Taskforce, as the actions set out in the beef sector agreement are now completed or nearing completion.
Meat Industry Ireland
MII said the major focus of a discussion on medium and long-term challenges and opportunities for the beef sector centred on the following:
An MII spokesperson said the meeting took place against the backdrop of Irish beef cattle prices at a six-year high (435-440c/kg).
“Bord Bia data presented at the meeting shows that current Irish beef price is some 10c/kg ahead of the prices in the full mix of our main export markets and, in fact, prices in Ireland today are 37c/kg or 10% ahead of prices paid in our main continental EU markets.
“This underlines a strong performance and delivery on market returns when you consider that we export 90% of our beef.
"This performance was achieved despite a very significant 22% reduction in exports to the UK and a 13% fall in total exports in the first quarter of 2021,” the spokesperson said.
Macra na Feirme president John Keane said the beef sector needs ambition for the future of young beef farmers, coupled with action on the delivery of initiatives that provide multiple dividends.
One such initiative that Macra has called on since the establishment of the taskforce is the development of the full potential of bull beef production.
Despite the strong credentials of bull beef to both meet climate ambition and to protect the Irish suckler sector, bull beef continues to receive little support from processors or promotional campaigns, it said following the meeting.
Keane called on processors to take the lead on this issue and give confidence to bull beef farmers by providing a QPS bonus, along with investing in market development.
“Bull beef should have a bonus structure on a par with prime steers and heifers. I urge processors to support a future for bull beef, which provides both an environmental and on-farm efficiency dividend,” he said.
The young farmer organisation also welcomed the proposed engagement by the taskforce with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the European Commission Meat Market Observatory to shed light on fair competition and international data collection for greater comparison and transparency in the beef market.