Irish beef finishers affected by market disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic are to benefit from a €50m (£44.5m) direct aid package, to compensate for falling incomes.
“Farmers with finished animals have suffered a dual impact over recent months: reduced prices and a reduced kill,” said agriculture minister Michael Creed.
“This support for the beef sector is an emergency response to a dramatic economic shock, to mitigate the worst Covid-19 economic impacts on these farm enterprises.”
The aid package was signed off by the Irish government on Friday (12 June), though full details have yet to be developed.
According to the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), winter finishers have taken a “beef price battering” of about €200 (£178) a head, when compared with pre-Brexit and pre-Covid-19 prices.
It blames the closure of the food service sector and a loss of export orders.
“Without a direct payment package to make up, in some part, for these price losses, many winter finishers will not survive after this spring, which has been financially horrendous,” said IFA livestock chairman Brendan Golden.
Further discussions will be held this week between farmers and government, to work out the best way to allocate the funds.
Meanwhile, talks have been held between the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) in Northern Ireland about the allocation of a £25m aid package for the agri-food sector.
UFU beef and lamb chairman Sam Chesney requested £13.2m for the beef sector and £270,000 for the lamb sector.
“The beef sector was first hit by the pandemic in late December, when the Chinese market went into lockdown, followed by the EU market,” he said.
“Farmgate prices were aggravated further when the UK went into lockdown. The closure of the food service sector became the final nail in the coffin for many beef and sheep producers.”
A study by the Andersons Centre, commissioned by the Livestock and Meat Commission, showed that, at the height of the pandemic, beef and lamb finishers were losing £238 a carcass and £31 a carcass, respectively.
The UFU wants to see £50 a head paid on cattle slaughtered in the first six months of 2020 and a further £60 a head during the seven-week period from the end of March.
For lamb, a payment of £8 a lamb slaughtered for the four weeks to 18 April is needed.