Addressing the Agriculture Committee on Wednesday afternoon, Independent TD Denis Naughten said beef farmers must have a fixed share of the price paid by supermarket customers for their product.
“A lot of the anger expressed by farmers is around cattle specifications and supermarkets need to provide a justification for the specifications that are being laid down by beef processors,” he said.
“Not only do we need transparency on these specifications - and the price margins operated right across the beef supply chain - but we also need to put a robust mechanism in place to ensure that farmers get a fare share of the final retail price for their animal.
“The fact is the further the animal goes from the farm gate, the less information is made available on price. That is why beef price transparency right across the supply chain, and the associated specifications, must be addressed in the context of securing a fixed but fair proportion of the final price for beef farmers.
“While there is a large volume of information available on what the beef farmer sells his cattle for at either the mart or meat plant, there is a lack of information on margins in the processing sector or the farmers’ share of the carcass price received on EU markets by processors, including the volumes & value of specific cuts.
“There must be a justification for these specifications and we need to know what the beef carcass is ultimately selling for, including its specific cuts. This must then be used to determine a fair share for beef farmers.
“While many are legitimately arguing that price cannot be discussed there is no legitimate argument not to look at a secure margin for farmers who are producing a premium product not just for the Irish market but for the EU Beef market.
“From my own survey, I have clearly shown that the share of the price of beef going to Irish farmers has dropped by one quarter over the last 15 years, or on average 1.7% each year, and unless we have a fixed share of the final price going to the farmers then suckler farmers will not survive until Christmas,” Deputy Naughten concluded.