New Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has committed to improving the transparency of the beef market as one of his main priorities.
Speaking at the Agricultural Science Association (ASA) annual conference, Minister McConalogue reiterated plans to set up a national food ombudsman.
Agreed in the programme for government, the ombudsman would act as a watchdog against unfair trading practices in the food supply chain.
The Minister said it was important to ensure there was transparency and that farmers had confidence they received the best possible prices based on factories' margins.
He stressed the Government’s support for the beef sector which has endured a difficult time in recent years. He said beef farmers were under pressure and that was reflected in the protests at factory gates last year.
Minister McConalogue has recently scheduled the fourth meeting of the Beef Market Taskforce, a stakeholder body set up in the wake of the protests.
The taskforce provided a structure to deal with issues in the sector, he said. It was important that commitments the beef sector agreement struck after the protests were followed through on.
The Minister was also asked about the suspension of the serial COVID-19 testing programme at meat factories. He reiterated an earlier point by An Taoiseach Michéal Martin that testing had been suspended so the HSE could cope with an increase in demand from the wider community.
He stressed that he wanted to see testing recommence as soon as possible and that one of his first actions as Minister had been to meet with the meat industry to discuss the matter.