Calls for independent beef regulator

Cavan County Council members have put in a call for a separate and independent beef regulator to ensure farmers are “getting what they deserve from those higher up the food chain”. The local authority discussed two motions inspired by calls from the Beef Plan Movement for a regulator to assume oversight of the sector.

Cathaoirleach Sarah O’Reilly’s motion called on the Council to support the Beef Plan Movement and rural Irish farmers in calling for an independent meat regulator specifically for the sector.

On the same subject, but with a slightly different view, was a motion by Councillor Aiden Fitzpatrick (FF). He asked the local authority to call on the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, to appoint an independent beef regulator to investigate how to protect the livelihood of the beef farmer and liaise with the meat processing and retail sector to gain a fair price for their produce.

Cllr O’Reilly (Aontu) said that more transparency is needed within the factory pricing system. She said that the proposed National Food Ombudsman, committed to under the Programme for Government, would have to widen its remit to tackle the immediate problems in the beef industry.

“Beef production is of vital importance, both in my own area of Bailieboro and the wider Cavan area. The crisis caused by the low prices given by factories is escalating. The government are failing to tackle the problem by taking corrective action. There is a clear market distortion in the meat industry. It’s unlikely that the proposed office of the National Food Ombudsman will be able to effectively tackle the systemic problems,” she told members.

‘Rampant greed’

The Cathaoirleach said those at the top had “an air of invincibility” and there was a perception that the government “look after the golden circle”. Cllr O’Reilly told members it was important to establish an independent regulator for the beef sector to protect producers and consumers and to stem the “rampant greed” that undermines the industry.

She told members a Food Ombudsman is not the way to go as they would “have no teeth to deal with the issue”.

Cllr Fitzpartick said, while he agreed with much of what the Cathaoirleach said, he felt that a Food Ombudsman was what was needed. He said the market distortion was not exclusive to the beef industry telling members that the poultry sector is also at the mercy of processors.

He said the protection of primary producers and consumers is of paramount importance. Cllr Sean Smith (FF) agreed: “We have to arrive at a point where the person producing the product gets a fair payment for his hard work and investment.

“Anything that puts pressure on the meat industry is welcome. Many producers have gone out of business in the last number of years, that is totally wrong.”

Cartels

Cllr Shane P O’Reilly (Ind) backed the proposal: “The problem is the cartels in the beef industry.

“It needs to be tackled and dealt with on its own. We have a serious issue with the beef industry.”

Cllr Winston Bennett said it was a time of unity: “Farmers representative bodies must come together.

“They are all pulling like goats against each other.”

Cllr John Paul Feeley (FF) said a regulator “would ensure farmers were getting what they deserve from those higher up the food chain”.

Councillors were all unanimous in supporting the calls for an independent regulator.

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