24 August 2001

Ministers lack of urgency has Irish farmers frustrated

IRISH Farmers Association president Tom Parlon has strongly criticised the "unacceptable lack of urgency" shown by agriculture minister Joe Walsh in tackling the recent collapse in Irish beef prices.

At a major cattle farmers meeting in Abbeyleix last Monday, Mr Parlon addressed a capacity crowd of 500 livestock producers, where the mood was one of anger and frustration at the lack of action being taken by the minister.

Mr Parlon said the failure of Mr Walsh to reopen vital Third Country beef markets meant he must deliver immediately on the cattle price stability deal he negotiated in Brussels in June. This stated that intervention would be used to stabilise cattle prices if export markets remained closed.

Cattle prices have fallen by IR10p/lb (17.6p/kg) or IR£75/head (£60/head) in the past four weeks, prompting IFA livestock chairman Derek Deane to call the situation "critical".

Third Country destinations account for a quarter of all Irish beef exports, without which the current weekly kill of 35,000 head has limited market outlets. Meat factories are also being blamed for pushing the markets down.

"With cattle prices in the UK, our largest export market, stable at £1.65/kg dw, the factories cannot justify forcing prices down," said Mr Deane. "There is now a massive gap of up to £150/head between cattle prices in Ireland and the UK."

He also called on the minister to secure an increase in export refunds to facilitate the reopening of Third Country markets and boost the existing exports to Russia. "The time has now come for Mr Walsh to live up to this commitment." &#42