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Clare Beef Plan chairman, Joseph Woulfe has expressed concern about the latest slump in beef prices. Photograph by John Kelly

Concern Over Beef Price Slump

CLARE beef farmers look set to be hit by further decreases in the meat prices following claims by Meat Industry Ireland of increased export costs caused by Brexit.

Clare Beef Plan chairman, Joe Woulfe recalled prices began to increase after Christmas with heifers in one meat plant hitting €4 per kg.

At this stage farmers were beginning to hope that Teagasc’s break even figure of €4.40 per kg might be achievable.

However, without warning Mr Woulfe pointed out the price collapsed by 20 cent, which has prompted fears of a return to the 2019 factory protest price of €3.65.

The Quilty suckler farmer said there is an urgent need for a breakdown of what money is paid to the farmer, processor and retailer for meat.

He expressed concern that retailers can reduce the price of meat to attract customers into their retail premises before stressing this shouldn’t be done at the expense of producers.

He said Meat Industry Ireland need to provide a detailed breakdown of how meat processors and exporters are experiencing increases in export costs of 40% due to the loss of frictionless trade after Brexit.

Beef Plan is trying to set up talks with Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue to address the current difficulties for beef farmers.

He stressed the main players in the beef industry were still making health profits.

“The farmer is stationery and has to pay all his taxes in Ireland. Operators in the meat industry can register their companies abroad but the producer is hit with everything.

“People are buying better cuts of meat in the butcher shop and supermarkets. The market for cooking meat at home has grown.

“People want to buy meat they used to get in the restaurant. This isn’t reflected in the price of beef for farmers. Demand isn’t a problem but the price of beef is.”

In a submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and the Marine, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said the increased costs are due to new customs and sanitary/phytosanitary (SPS) processes, delays and disruption in logistics and direct transport cost increases.

Whilst the increase in direct sailings to Continental Europe has helped provide exporters with an alternative to the UK Landbridge, MII says that it costs between €500 and €800 extra per truck to send exports to Continental Europe direct.

In addition, where exporters are sending trucks to the UK hauliers are facing difficulties filling their trucks for the return journey due to paperwork and logistical minefields, which means they are looking to increase the costs they charge per journey.

MII also expressed concern about the range of further Brexit measures coming in between April and July. For April 1, all products of animal origin will need to be accompanied by a veterinary certificate. This will require over 350,000 Export Health Certificates to be issued per annum, with serious potential to cause trade flow disruption and add more cost to exporting.

MMI warned the Covid-19 pandemic has decimated demand for Irish meat products from the food service and restaurant sector, which it is so reliant. In the beef sector, this affects steak sales in particular as restaurant, catering, and food service channels account for some 60% of steak sales. Burger sales are also impacted as fast-food outlets throughout Europe are operating at significantly reduced levels due to national lockdowns in many key markets.

Meat Industry Ireland Director, Cormac Healy, said meat processors are dealing with the double whammy of Covid-19 and Brexit.

“Covid-19 lockdown restrictions across Ireland, the UK and Europe are leading to a major drop in demand throughout food service channels, and Brexit contingency stockpiles put in place ahead of the Brexit deadline are now being released and reducing demand,” he said.

Dan Danaher

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