I propose to take Questions Nos. 170 and 171 together.
Market conditions in the beef and cattle sector are monitored on an on-going basis by my Department. Under Regulation 1249/2008, DG AGRI of the European Commission receives beef carcase prices from all Member States, including Ireland on a weekly basis. The European Commission chairs a Management Committee on Animal Products and the trends and variations in cattle prices are outlined on a monthly basis.
The information supplied at the management meeting includes details of prices paid in each EU Member State as well as information on the level of imports into and exports from the European Union, for all meat products (beef, pigs, poultry, and sheep) on an ongoing basis. Officials of my Department attend these management committee meetings. In addition, Bord Bia issues a weekly commentary on cattle prices and supply and demand trends in our main export markets including the United Kingdom.
While my Department has a role in monitoring and reporting on cattle prices I have no function in relation to commercial transactions between meat factories and their suppliers. However, as the Irish beef industry is highly export dependent the need to ensure that it is producing efficiently for overseas markets cannot be ignored. The relationship between processors and farmers is an interdependent one. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of both sides working together to manage the type and volume of cattle being brought to market so that the supply chain does not undermine the viability of beef production systems for either beef finishers or suckler farmers.
The current situation clearly underlines the need for industry operators to improve communication on market trends and signals throughout the supply chain and to address supply chain issues in such a context. An industry-led solution to the current uncertainty is essential to restoring confidence in the sector and I would encourage the various stakeholders to continue their efforts to reach a mutually acceptable outcome.