‘Existing mechanisms are not delivering fairness for beef farmers’

Sligo News File

Edmund Graham, chairman ICSA Beef Committee

ICSA Beef chair Edmund Graham has said the Beef Taskforce must be wound down and the priority now must be the establishment of a strong beef regulator. “Over the course of the Beef Taskforce it became abundantly clear to ICSA that the position of the primary producer was not being strengthened in any significant way. Existing mechanisms are not delivering fairness for beef farmers, and the only way to level the playing field is with a regulator who is equipped with all the necessary powers and resources,” he said.

“We have seen that Grant Thornton were unable to deliver transparency around the price composition of the total value of an animal – including the fifth quarter – along the supply chain. Indeed, it proved to be an impossible task as they simply could not get their hands on the required data. Neither processor nor retailer were compelled to co-operate, and therein lies the difficulty. They must not be allowed to shirk their responsibly towards their suppliers any longer.

“Competition laws have also proven to be of little value. It has become evident with our discussions with the CCPC that a finer instrument than competition law is required when it comes to the beef sector. That instrument must be a regulator – who is knowledgeable about the sector, properly resourced and armed with clear investigative powers. They must have the ability to forensically audit the books, and all of this must be backed by robust legislation.

“It has never been more apparent that such legislation is both necessary and urgent. The duty is now upon Minister McConalogue to ensure such legislation can in fact establish transparency in the beef sector once and for all, in a way that the Taskforce and Grant Thornton could not.

“While we believe the Beef Taskforce has now reached the end of its natural life, it must not mark the end of dialogue, particularly when it comes to implementing outstanding agreements – most notably the installation of weigh bridges to facilitate live weights at factories. ICSA is proposing a mechanism whereby the minister chairs discussions between the farming organisations and the factory bosses on a regular basis with a view to delivering consistent fair play for farmers and a better future for beef farmers.”