‘Serious questions which need to be answered’

Sligo News File Online

Patrick Kent, President, Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association.
Patrick Kent, President, Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association.

ICSA president Patrick Kent has welcomed the official opening yesterday of the new €50 million facility in Cahir by the ABP group but has asked for some indication from ABP as to what percentage improvement in price will accrue to farmers.  “The new facility includes the introduction of a gel bone processing plant which according to ABP will lead to added value in the processing of bovine bones for the pharmaceutical and beauty industries.  In our view, the rewards need to be shared fairly between ABP and hard pressed beef farmers.

“It is our understanding that this is a potentially exciting and lucrative revenue stream from the fifth quarter and it is essential that it is exploited to benefit not only ABP but farmers as well.  This is against a background where Teagasc has stated that, in 2014, 40% of cattle finishing farms are economically vulnerable and another 40% are only sustainable because of off-farm jobs.

“I am calling on the ABP group to make a statement outlining what this new gel bone processing plant will do in terms of better beef prices for farmers.  Is it going to add 10c or 20c/kg or could we get some indication as to what percentage improvement it will make to the price of beef?  These are serious questions which need to be answered so that suckler farmers in particular can evaluate whether they should be putting cows in calf or reducing herd size.”


ICSA National Beef Committee Chairman, Edmond Phelan
ICSA National Beef Committee Chairman, Edmond Phelan

ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan has said that the lack of engagement on the thirty month issue at the beef roundtable was very disappointing.  “While it was agreed last November that every effort would be made to persuade customers that there was no rational case for a thirty month specification, it is increasingly clear that beef factories are keen to retain the limit for their own reasons.”

“The reality is that there is no credible consumer research which shows a demand for 29 month beef but not 31 month beef.  It also militates against maximising the use of our competitive advantage – grass – and is used to drive down price by forcing farmers to sell in a panic when cattle are near 30 months old  for fear of losing the 12c bonus, even though some cattle won’t qualify anyway.  Worse still, the effect of panic selling and the reluctance to sell in marts probably outweighs the benefit of the 12c bonus for farmers as a whole.

Mr. Phelan said that the one thing that was evident at the roundtable was the impending log jam of cattle due to some 116,000 extra calves born this year compared to last year.  “There is an urgent need to get beef moving to new markets and of course, to look at options to ensure increased live exports.”

Mr Phelan also insisted that it was time to review the QPS system which is not working for a lot of farmers. “The 225 separate boxes in the grid means that the system is too complex and militates against price comparisons.  Meanwhile, the artificial rules on 70 days retention and maximum residency periods is used to deter selling in the mart, even though it is crystal clear that farmers need to sell more not less beef cattle in marts to get a true understanding of what markets can return and to maximise competition between factories.”