As the Deputy will be aware, in accordance with competition law, neither I nor my Department have any role in determining market prices for any commodity, nor can I intervene in this process.
I am conscious that this has been a difficult year for the sector in terms of weather and the range of challenges associated with it. We have to acknowledge that input costs at farm level will be unexpectedly high this year as a result of fodder shortages.
At the last meeting of the Beef Roundtable on 3rd October I highlighted the need for stakeholders to recognise their inter-dependency. I urged processors to engage positively with their farmer suppliers to build the sustainability of the sector as a whole and to ensure a reasonable return for the farmers upon whom the sector relies for its development. It is essential that the position of the primary producer in the supply chain be improved if the industry is to build a sector for the future.
The Beef Roundtable also included discussions on the potential for producer organisations and the development of new technologies as ways of adding value along the whole supply chain though increased engagement in the bioeconmy. These discussions were aimed at highlighting available tools to build resilience in the sector.
I have also asked Bord Bia to conduct a detailed examination of market dynamics, with the cooperation of the industry, taking into account sales of particular cuts into particular segments of the market in order to improve price transparency.
One of the unique strengths of the agri-food sector has been the shared vision for the sustainable development of the sector in Food Wise 2025. I hope that this positive engagement will continue.
More generally in relation to the beef sector, I was pleased to secure in the recent Budget, €20 million for a new pilot scheme targeted at suckler farmers and specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production. The pilot will build on the Beef Data and Genomics Scheme.
My Department is examining all appropriate measures to support the different agri-food sectors, including the suckler sector in preparation for the next iteration of the CAP. I will continue to argue for as strong a CAP budget as possible, post-2020. In particular, I am committed to ensuring that suckler farmers continue to receive strong support in the next CAP. My view is that such payments should support and encourage suckler farmers to make the best decisions possible to improve the profitability, and the economic and environmental efficiency, of their farming system.
Finally, my Department is working with other Departments and Agencies to broaden the portfolio of markets available to the Irish beef sector. Live exports are also an important market outlet, and the volumes have increased by 30% in 2018.
I would urge the industry to reflect on the economic sustainability of its own supply base when considering the development of the sector into the future.