Factories are attempting to erode confidence in the beef trade by threatening price and weight cuts to try and force out scarce supplies of cattle, according to Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) national livestock chairman, Henry Burns.
Mr Burns said the reality is cattle supplies are very tight and Ireland's main export market in the UK is very strong, despite the changes to sterling.
"Across the weekend, agents are cold calling on farmers looking for cattle and offering a base of €3.95/kg for steers and €4.05/kg for heifers," he said.
Mr Burns was very critical of commentators 'jumping on the factory bandwagon' to talk down the beef trade and erode farmer confidence for 2016. He said the way the figures around the extra numbers for 2016 have been 'used and abused' is incredible.
“The reality is 50,000 to 70,000 additional cattle have been forecast. These extra numbers are exaggerated as carcase weights will revert to 2014 levels, or 5kg less than 2015 levels, which amounts to a reduction equivalent to 20,000 head. In addition, supplies this spring and summer will be tighter than last year, with any increase only coming in the last quarter. Numbers were forecasted to be tighter pre-Christmas and this scarcity may still transpire.”
Mr Burns also said there is a good possibility that the live export trade to Libya or Egypt will resume and that this will also reduce numbers. He said the IFA is working hard on this.
The IFA livestock leader called on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, to 'stand up' to the factories and insist that they operate the quality pricing system (QPS) 'properly without any weight cuts'. In addition, he called on the Minister to be much more proactive on live exports in order to tackle the lack of competition in the beef trade.
Mr Burns also called on the Minister to make a submission to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission on the ABP investment in Slaney and ICM and outline his views and those of the Government on the lack of competition in the meat-processing and rendering sectors. He said the IFA lobbied 60 TDS and senators on the issue in Dublin last week and the majority said they were very concerned or opposed to the deal.