Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Questions (89)

Martin Heydon

Question:

89. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to improve oversight and transparency in the beef processing sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41115/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

There has been a series of formal negotiations with beef sector stakeholders, facilitated by my Department, since early August, culminating in an agreement being reached between stakeholders on Sunday 15 September.

The full text of the Agreement is available on my Department's website: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/farmingsectors/beef/Agreement15September170919.pdf

The Agreement involves a number of interventions which will provide immediate benefit for beef producers, as well as a range of strategic measures which 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 which are eligible for a bonus. The cumulative effect is that over 70% of all steer and heifers slaughtered will now be eligible for a bonus on top of the base price paid.

A number of actions in the area 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.

Actions specifically in relation to transparency include:

- An independent review of market and customer requirements, specifically in relation to the four in-spec bonus criteria currently in operation in the Irish beef sector;

- An independent examination of the price composition of the total value of the animal, including the fifth quarter, along the supply chain, and

- a summary of competition law issues as relevant to the Irish beef sector

- additional detailed price reporting on the Beef PriceWatch app;

- examination of transparency models in other jurisdictions; and

- a consultation process on the transposition of the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Directive.

In addition, Bord Bia will develop a beef market price index model based on 3 components: cattle price index, beef market price index (retail and wholesale) and an offal price indicator.

I have established a Beef Market Taskforce 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 Taskforce will provide a robust implementation structure for commitments entered into in the Agreement, with timelines and stakeholder engagement. Furthermore, the Beef Market Taskforce will offer a suitable platform for strategic engagement with key stakeholders, including retailers and regulatory authorities. The Taskforce is comprised of key beef sector stakeholders, with Michael Dowling as independent chair.

The Beef Taskforce scheduled for yesterday, 14 October, was adjourned, as members of the Taskforce were prevented from attending the meeting. It is in the interests of everyone involved in the beef industry that the work of the Taskforce goes ahead. The Taskforce’s remit is to monitor the implementation of the actions arising from the agreement reached on 15 September and 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 Taskforce.