I share the Deputy's concerns about the ongoing serious difficulties facing the beef sector, particularly in view of the very significant threat posed to the sector by the possibility of a no-Deal Brexit in the near future.
Progress was made on a range of issues after long and detailed negotiations in August, including in relation to improvements in transparency along the supply chain, and in communications between industry and farmers and a review of some market specifications.
The agreement includes commitments on:
- Review of the grid;
- Review of the in-spec criteria for the quality payment system bonus;
- Availability of carcass images to farmers;
- Appeals system for carcass classification in manually grading factories;
- Publication of an expert report on new technology in mechanical carcass classification and
- Promotional initiatives for the beef sector;
- Market transparency initiatives, including more detailed price reporting, and the transposition of the EU Directive on Unfair Trading Practices.
Full details of the Backweston Agreement are available at: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/farmingsectors/beef/StakeholderConclusions210819.pdf
There has been significant engagement with stakeholders throughout the duration of this dispute and I believe that there is now a basis for the renewal of talks between the parties. These talks have been scheduled for next Monday, 9 September.
We have reached a point where it is critically important for the future of the sector that stakeholders engage in a spirit of compromise to resolve a dispute that has the potential to inflict long term damage on the sector if it continues. It is clear that this can only happen if processors and protestors step back from Court proceedings and illegal blockades, in order to allow space for meaningful talks to proceed.