TDs call for Competition Authority to investigate Glanbia-Kepak Twenty20 club
Representatives from Glanbia and Kepak appeared before the Oireachtas committee on agriculture on Tuesday. The committee is working on a report on the future of the Irish beef industry.

The compulsory closed loop supply chain in the Glanbia-Kepak dairy calf to beef scheme is anti-competitive, members of the Oireachtas agriculture committee said on Tuesday.

Willie Penrose, Paul Daly and Michelle Mulherin said that they would ask the Competition Authority to investigate whether this is the case when it comes before the committee shortly.

"If you have other companies like merchants going out of business and ultimately you are the last ones standing why would you be benevolent to farmers? You are it would seem in a dominant position. I could well see how it would end badly," Michelle Mulherin said. "The farmers are at your mercy and that is the kernel of the concerns here."

These concerns were particularly directed at Glanbia which strongly refuted them.

"The closed loop to us is fundamental and is the genesis for us to be able pay over the market price," Martin Ryan from Glanbia said.

"It is easier to audit one supplier than 20 or 30. It forms a potential future opportunity to form a block chain for beef down the road and as we look to China that is definitely on their minds."

Fertiliser

He justified the inclusion of fertiliser in the closed loop on the system on the basis that farmers need to use the right kind of fertiliser to manage climate impact and this is what purchasers of beef from the Twenty20 club want.

"I can assure you we will have a competitive price proposition because without it it will never work for anybody," Ryan said.

The year one target of 6,000 calves has been oversubscribed already, according to Mick O'Dowd from Kepak. In year one, there will be 100 to 150 members.

The average number of cattle per farmer is in the region of 50 to 55. Membership of the club will rise to 1,000 by the time it hits the 50,000 calf target, O'Dowd said.

"We felt that coming together, investing in genetics and raising that standard will bring more predictability to the performance of the calf. If that is coupled with technical support that gives us predictability around the quality of our supply," he said.

"It is a solution, not the solution. This represents 50,000 animals after three or four years, which is less than 3% of the overall kill."

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Mercosur deal would shatter EU climate change credentials - ICMSA
ICMSA's Pat McCormack has called for the removal of any additional access to the EU market for beef from Mercosur.

The credibility of the European Commission as a leader in tackling climate change would be “shattered” if a trade dead is concluded with Mercosur allowing additional beef into the EU.

That is according to Pat McCormack, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), who said such an agreement would be a disaster for farmers and the environment.

EU beef, specifically Irish beef, had a far superior environmental footprint than South American beef, McCormack said. In addition, European farmers were being challenged daily to further improve their footprint on the back of pressure and regulation form the EU Commission.

Policy

McCormack said farmers were extremely angry at the contradictions in EU policy: “On one hand, we have more regulation on an almost constant basis being imposed on EU farmers at huge financial and farm management cost and without the marketplace returning an extra cent for their efforts.

“On the other hand, the EU now appears to be prepared to allow additional access for Mercosur beef into the EU market with absolutely no environment or climate change commitments.”

He pointed to low-cost imports meeting much lower standards as one of the reasons food prices were at unsustainability low and unrealistic levels.

“Is the EU prepared to sell out its farm families and global climate change for big business? As of now, the answer would appear to be ‘yes’,” McCormack stated bluntly.

Standards

If farmers in the EU had to meet certain standards then those same standards must be imposed on imports also, he said.

McCormack called on the Government to vigorously oppose the Mercosur deal and seek the removal any additional access for beef from the negotiating table and build-in environment and climate change commitments for existing access.

“They have to do that if they are to be fair to their own farmers and in the interests of the environment”, he concluded.

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Listen: farmers' expectations from €100m beef scheme
We continue to talk to farmers to get their reaction to the €100m fund and to see where they would like the money to go.

John O’Leary (finisher), Gorey, Co Wexford

I’d like to see it on all of 2018 and all of 2019, on the cattle that have been finished and slaughtered in the factories.

It should be distributed in this particular way because the finishing man is taking the risk of buying the stores.

Suckler and store farmers will benefit from better prices in the mart: once the finishers get the subsidy, they’ll be out buying.

The factories are the ones holding the price back a bit.

Even though they claim that’s the market prices, I believe our price should be a little bit more.

The factories would cut the price as much as they can, and they’ll eventually cut it more now simply because of the extra €100m coming from the EU and the Government.

Con Frawley (drystock and sheep), Curraghmore, Co Tipperary

I think farmers need to get a lot more information about this money before we can comment on how good or bad it is.

I’d like to see it going to the smaller farms this time and not into the hands of the big feedlots and finishers.

It’s been an extremely tough winter and spring for anyone who was finishing cattle.

I know beef prices are coming up a bit, but now lamb prices have taken an awful hit – it’s one blow after another.

Con Frawley, Curraghmore, Co Tipperary. \ Matthew Halpin

Additional reporting by Matthew Halpin.

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Farmer viewpoint: how the €100m beef fund should be paid and to who

Farmer viewpoint: how the €100m beef fund should be paid and to who
Farmers at Nenagh mart, Ballina mart and the Teagasc dairy beef open day in Johnstown Castle outlined what they want from the Brexit beef compensation fund.

Michael and Ornagh Darcy

Calf to store Piercestown, Co Wexford

“That money will go straight into the hands of the factories and the feedlots. A proportion of the cattle is in feedlots and it will be just another tool for the factories, whereas it should go to the family farms.

“The people finishing the cattle are getting them cheaper. If we’re serious about protecting the beef industry, they have to target the family farm.”

John Dunne at the Teagasc dairy beef open day in Johnstown Castle, Co Wexford. \ Thomas Hubert

John Dunne

Suckler and calf to beef Portarlington, Co Offaly

“I think it should go directly to the finisher. The beef man was never one to hold on to money. He will bring it straight to the mart and send it back down along the line to the store or weanling producer.

“It’s the family farm that needs the support, not the factories that own feedlots or the feedlot operator, they have cashflow. There should be a limit on the number of cattle or the amount for each farmer. Giving everybody a little amount of money is purely a vote-getting exercise.”

John Gleeson, at Nenagh Mart.

John Gleeson

Suckler and drystock Puckaun, Co Tipperary

“The money is just an election gimmick if you ask me. I’d be afraid it’s going to be like the Single Farm Payment and all the schemes that we have; 80% of the money going to 20% of the farmers.

“It’s always the smaller farmers, like myself, who are getting the raw deal – the weak are getting weaker. I’d like to see the smaller farms given preference with this fund to give them a chance.”

Joe Cahill, Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, at Nenagh Mart.

Joe Cahill

Suckler and drystock Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary

“Personally, I’d love to see it coming as a payment per suckler cow because I think if the suckler cow isn’t supported, we will all be left rearing dairy stock in a few years.

“Unfortunately, at the moment it looks like most of the money will end up in the hands of the big finishers. At the same time, we have to remember that a lot of the trade in the marts depends on one or two of those big buyers standing around the ring.”

Michael Mitchell, Castlebar, Co Mayo. \ Frank Dolan.

Michael Mitchell

Suckler to weanling/beef Castlebar, Co Mayo

“It should go to both finishers and to suckler farmers. Both are feeling a lot of pain since Brexit started to bite. The fairest way to pay it to cattle finishers is as a payment per kilo of beef sold since last autumn.

“To make the pot go as far is it can, the payment should be capped either up to a weight like 380kg or 400kg or a maximum per head. Where the farmer is bringing them to slaughter, they should receive a higher payment per animal than those that buy cattle to finish.”

John Morahan, Kilmaine, Co Mayo. \ Conor McKeown

John Morahan

Suckler to beef Kilmaine, Co Mayo

“Factory feedlots should not qualify for any of the fund because of how they are used to control the market. The fund should be backdated to cover cattle slaughtered from the autumn onwards when price pressure started.

“The fairest way to pay it is on a payment per head, with higher payments for cattle slaughtered at higher carcase weights, as these cattle are the ones hit the hardest by lower prices and tougher price cuts. It probably should be capped at a 500kg carcase.”

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