Bord Bia beef specs are a ‘futile‘ marketing exercise claims ICSA

If factory prices fail to get above €4/kg in early 2020 then it‘s time to “close down the Irish beef sector altogether”, ICSA beef chairman, Edmund Graham, has warned.

Mr Graham said the fact that Brazilian beef prices were now approaching the same level as those paid to Irish farmers was a stunning “indictment of the marketing of Irish beef”. Brazilian beef prices rose 20pc over the last month with prices touching €3.30/kg – just 15c/kg under Irish levels.

“It really begs the question what is all the traceability, quality assurance and the myriad of in-spec requirements doing to improve our beef price?” Mr Graham asked.

He described the continued focus on the 30-month age bracket as “lunacy”, and said the “absurd in-spec criteria on residencies” had done nothing to improve returns to beef farmers.

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“This is now exposed as a completely futile exercise in pretend marketing when it turns out that even the Brazilians can aspire to the same price levels, but with none of the restrictions,” he said.

However, Bord Bia‘s Padraig Brennan defended the strict adherence to quality standards and animal traceability required by Irish factories and regulatory authorities.

“Quality assurance remains a key prerequisite for the vast majority of customers of Irish beef. Without quality assurance Irish beef exporters would not be in a position to supply the leading retail and food-service customers across Europe,” Mr Brennan claimed.

“Notwithstanding the current buoyancy in world prices and the ongoing difficulties in the EU market, EU cattle prices have tended to exceed average world cattle prices by 30pc over the last 10 years.

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“Access to European customers has been critical in returning the best price possible from the marketplace,” Mr Brennan said.

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“The investment by the Irish beef sector in quality assurance and product traceability has been instrumental in Irish beef securing access to over 100 of the EU‘s top retail and food-service customers, who will only buy beef which is quality assured,” the Bord Bia official added.

While accepting the difficult market conditions experienced by beef farmers over the past year, Mr Brennan pointed out that Irish steer prices had reached or exceeded the EU-15 average for prime males in six of the years since 2010.

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“In the previous decade from 2000 to 2009, Irish prices only reached or exceeded the EU average once.”

But Mr Graham countered that Irish beef prices were well behind those being paid in the US – where farmers can use hormones.

Protein demand

“African Swine Fever in China is now having a major impact on protein demand globally,” Mr Graham said.

“If Irish meat plants cannot take advantage of this opportunity to deliver a sustainable price to Irish farmers – as is happening with meat processors in North and South America – then it really is time to question whether they are fit for purpose,” the ICSA representative maintained.

Meanwhile, IFA president Joe Healy said beef farmers urgently needed a substantial price increase to restore confidence in the sector.

He accused the factories of holding back on significant price increases in Britain, and across continental EU markets.

“Beef prices in the UK are now the equivalent of over €4/kg, which is some 40c/kg above the Irish price.

“The latest Bord Bia beef price index shows that a widening gap has opened up between Irish and EU prices,” Mr Healy said.

Indo Farming

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