As the Deputy will be aware, the inaugural Beef Taskforce meeting scheduled for 14th October was prevented from proceeding. However, since then the independent chair and my Department continue to engage proactively with Taskforce members with a view to both progressing the implementation of the provisions of the agreement.
My Department and its agencies continue to progress the commitments which they signed up to under the Agreement. The full text of the Agreement between beef sector stakeholders, along with an update on the progress made on the action points to date, is available on my Department's website: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmingsectors/beef/beeftaskforce/
An immediate increase in a range of bonuses was announced as part of the 15 September Agreement. It has been confirmed to my Department that this bonus system is now in place.
Initiatives in the Agreement aimed at improving information along the supply chain included the commissioning of the following reports: an independent review of market and customer requirements; an independent examination of the price composition of the total value of the animal along the supply chain; and a summary of competition law issues as relevant to the Irish beef sector. My Department has issued the Request for Tender for these reports, with a deadline for receipt of Tender Responses of 12 noon on Thursday 5th December. This will enable award of the tender before the end of 2019.
In relation to market transparency initiatives, my Department:
- has published an expert report on mechanical carcase classification review;
- has introduced an appeals system for manual grading; and
- has initiated a consultation process on the transposition of the Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Directive, with a deadline for submission of 13 December.
Bord Bia has developed 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. This is now available on the Bord Bia website: https://www.bordbia.ie/farmers-growers/farmers/prices-markets/beef-market-tracking/
Teagasc is significantly advanced in the first stage of the scientific review of the Quality Payment Grid(QPS).
My Department is also proactively engaging with several potential beef Producer Organisations, which have to potential to strengthen the bargaining power of beef farmers in the supply chain. Two beef producer organisations have been formally recognised by my Department in recent months.
I established the 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. As I have previously stated, it is in the interests of everyone involved in the beef sector that the work of the Taskforce goes ahead. I hope that all parties will agree to come together around the table as soon as possible in order to progress this important work.