The Tipperary farmer who presides over ICMSA said that the credibility of the Beef Forum ultimately rests on its commitment to acting on the recommendations made at the meeting held in November 2015.
Pat McCormack said that his organisation always tried to be positive and remained convinced that there was a need for a ‘roundtable’ that brought together all parties in our beef sector.
“We believe that in light of the kind of challenges now directly looming up in front of us – Brexit and Mercosur, to name the two most obvious - that we absolutely have to have some forum in which we honestly analyse the problems that we all know are there and then move forward towards improvements. Put bluntly, the need for a Beef Forum that does the analysis is even more pressing now than it was when it was when it was first conceived.
“But we have a situation where problems that were identified over two years ago, and on which we received commitments to act, are still ‘on a shelf’ somewhere”, said Mr McCormack, who farms at Greenan, near Tipp town.
“A perfect example is the continued inaction on the Beef Grid which ICMSA identified as flawed and unfair to farmers on ‘Day One’ of its introduction.
“After the Beef Forum November 2015, the Department and then Minister Coveney committed to a fundamental review as it was obvious – even then – that the Grid was over-complex and that that the numbers hitting the top grades had inexplicably fallen.
“In 2016 ICMSA produced figures that showed that between 2011 and 2015, the Grid had cost farmers at least €80 million. We have been a lonely but constant voice on this since 2011 but in the last few years it has become even more obvious that more and more farmers are dissatisfied with the Grid and the calls for a review grow louder and louder all the time. The Beef Forum now simply has to act on the knowledge it had over two years ago and move decisively to introduce that review with a clarity that will give farmers confidence that when they sell their animals on the Grid they’re going to get a fair and transparent figure.
“The question of the absence of live exporters is another instance where ICMSA identified that lack and asked that they be invited to attend. We’ll be pursuing that as well – everyone who has a stake in the beef sector should be represented and it just won’t do that there can be a perception that some people or elements have a louder voice than others”, said Mr McCormack.