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'Anger and frustration' among farmers as beef price row continues

The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has contracted a leading economist to determine what happens between the time beef leaves the farmer and the time the consumer buys it.

IFA president Joe Healy said there is anger and frustration amongst farmers and that it would be a waste of time going back into talks if price cannot be discussed.

“The amount of anger and frustration that's out there on the ground amongst farmers because they're expected to sell beef at so much below the figure that's given by Teagasc that covers the cost of production, so that anger is there, and farmers are fighting for their livelihoods here,” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One.

“It's a waste of time going back into talks if we can't talk about price.”

Mr Healy said that that the price of beef was the elephant in the room at previous talks.

“We mentioned price every day that we were in there, unfortunately it couldn't be talked about or so we were told.

“I can't see why price can't be talked about because ok, price mightn't be agreed in there and the competition law states that, but price can still be talked about in there because it's very clear, no matter what farmer you talk to, it's all about price.

“The mandate that we had was from our last national council meeting and that's the governing body of the organisation and we're very clear that the four issues that we were pushing for to get any meaningful response for Irish and European farmers, that was an immediate ban on all substandard south American beef imports, because if we produced to their standards we wouldn't be allowed to put our beef on the shelves across Europe.

“We've called for a ban on all that, we want further support for farmers of cattle that were sold or slaughtered after May 12, that was the cut off for the €100m that IFA succeeded in getting for farmers that had sold cattle from last September to last May.

“Also a €1 billion Brexit fund for market supports and I suppose, very importantly, we are calling for an EU campaign to promote our beef and the environmentally sustainable way that EU beef is produced.”

Mr Healy added that farmers want a price increase.

“We need the EU market to be rebalanced, it's over supplied at the moment, but a lot of that oversupply is because of beef that's coming in from South America - 140,000 tonnes came in from Brazil last year and that's not at all feasible.

“People confuse that with the Mercosur deal that hasn't even hit yet, if that 140,000 tonnes was taken out of the system because that meat is produced with standards way, way below what Irish and European farmers produce them.”

The farmers leader was adamant that Irish consumers were very happy with the standard and the safety of the meat produced in Ireland and the top quality standards it is produced to, “but I also think that the farmer deserves to get more from that consumer euro than they are getting.

“We have retained the economist Jim Power to get in behind a lot of the questions that there are no answers to out in public.

"Everyone knows what the farmer is getting, everyone knows what the consumer is paying, but no one seems to know what's happening between the time it leaves the farmer and the time the consumer buys it, so the processor and the retailer - there are a lot of questions to be asked there and to try and figure out a way of passing on more of that consumer euro back to the farmer.

“What the farmer wants here is a price increase.”