As the Deputy will be aware, neither I nor my Department may legally have any role in determining a price for beef or any other commodity. He will be aware, however, that a series of formal negotiations took place between beef sector stakeholders, beginning in early August and culminating in the agreement reached on Sunday, 15 September, the text of which is available on my Department's website. The agreement involves a number of interventions that will provide immediate benefit for beef producers as well as a range of strategic measures that seek to address structural imbalances in the sector. Beef producers will benefit from an immediate increase in a range of bonuses. This will increase the level of bonus being paid on certain animals as well as significantly increasing the number of animals that are eligible for a bonus. The cumulative effect is that over 70% of steers and heifers slaughtered will be eligible for a bonus on top of the base price paid. A number of actions in the areas of market transparency, beef promotion and strengthening the position of the farmer in the supply chain are included in the agreement. These measures set a course towards greater clarity for all stakeholders involved in the beef supply chain, primarily farmers.
My Department is proactively engaging with several potential beef producer organisations, which have the potential to strengthen the bargaining power of beef farmers in the supply chain. A constant refrain, of which I am sure Members are aware, is that farmers are price takers. Beef producer organisations enable farmers to work collaboratively together, control supply of a significant volume of beef and, from that position of strength, negotiate with processors on the basis of an agreed price and sharing some of the risk involved in rearing cattle over a prolonged period. Two beef producer organisations have been formally recognised by my Department in recent weeks.
A beef market task force has been established to provide the leadership to develop a sustainable pathway for the future of the beef sector in terms of economic, environmental and social sustainability. The task force will provide a robust implementation structure for commitments entered into in the agreement, with timelines and stakeholder engagement. Furthermore, it will offer a suitable platform for strategic engagement with key stakeholders, including retailers and regulatory authorities. It is chaired by Michael Dowling. It was scheduled to meet yesterday but the meeting was adjourned because members of the task force were prevented from attending it. It is in the interests of everyone involved in the beef industry that the work of the task force goes ahead. Its remit is to monitor the implementation of the actions arising from the agreement reached on 15 September and it offers the most viable platform for strategic engagement with key stakeholders. It was a great pity that farm representatives were not in a position to air the legitimate concerns of farmers at the task force.