Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Ceisteanna (50)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

50. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans for the inaugural meeting of the beef market task force, in view of the urgent need for same; the reason for the persistent delays in the holding of the meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49124/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (2 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My question is similar to that of my colleagues, which I support. It relates to the setting up of the beef task force. We are all aware the price of beef is on the ground. There has been no upward movement since the summer, when the blockades took place, and there is still talk of getting only €3.45 per kilogram for prime beef from this country. The Minister has to use his influence to set up the task force. I listened to what he stated in response to the previous question. In fairness, he is trying to take steps in the background rather than dismissing the demonstrators, but unless there is transparency and accountability for everyone involved, such as Meat Industry Ireland, farmers, factories, processors and wholesalers, there will not be fair play for farmers. The primary producers do not receive fair play and no one can say they do. The Minister must use his good offices to ensure transparency in the system.

As the Deputy will be aware, the inaugural beef task force meeting, scheduled for 14 October, was prevented from proceeding. Since then, however, the independent chairman and my Department continue to engage proactively with task force members with a view to progressing the implementation of the provisions of the agreement. My Department and its agencies continue to progress the commitments to which they signed up under the agreement, the full text of which is available on my Department's website.

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, 5 December. This will enable award of the tender before the end of 2019.

In regard to market transparency initiatives, my Department has done the following: published an expert report on mechanical carcase classification review; introduced an appeals system for manual grading; and initiated a consultation process on the transposition of the unfair trading practices directive, with a deadline for submission of 13 December. Bord Bia has developed a beef market price index model based on three components: a cattle price index, a beef market price index - retail and wholesale - and an offal price indicator. This is now available on the Bord Bia website. Teagasc is significantly advanced in the first stage of the scientific review of the quality payment grid.

My Department is also proactively engaging with several potential beef producer organisations which have the 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 task force 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 previously stated, it is in the interests of everyone involved in the beef sector that the work of the task force goes ahead. I hope that all parties will agree to come together around the table for this purpose at the earliest possible date.