"I welcome the report on the future of the beef sector in the context of Food Wise 2025. The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine is to be commended on its diligent work and dedication to the production of this report. However, as detailed and referenced in the report, it is not a silver bullet for the industry. No one solution exists to protect the fortunes and futures of those involved in this industry. All involved, including the farming fraternity, the processors, the industry bodies and the Government, have a responsibility and a part to play. The report makes recommendations with regard to unfair trading practices, market information, exports, pricing, CAP support, added value and research funding, all of which are important and relevant. There is a special acknowledgement of the significant threat posed by the prospective EU-Mercusor free trade agreement and the unintended consequences and detrimental impact, potentially, it could have of undercutting Irish beef with the importation of cheaper beef into the European market.
The importance of the Irish beef sector cannot and must not be understated for the socioeconomic benefits it presents for rural Ireland. The importance of retaining people on the land and ensuring that this sector is truly sustainable on economic, environmental and social grounds is paramount, not alone for the rural economy but the entire Irish economy, urban and rural. My concern is that there is no recognition of costs of production and efficiency. We must acknowledge that some businesses are not sustainable if beef is at €6 per kilo. The stark reality is that it will not be that price. The market is the market. The Government must ensure mechanisms are in place to establish cost of production modelling and seek to assist farmers in understanding cutting cost production, maximising efficiencies and maximising profits from a technical farming perspective.
Let us focus on the things a farming business has control of rather than all of the aspects over which they have no influence. Vertical integration of a supply chain and the sharing of risk and rewards across the supply chain must be discussed. The supply chain must become a value chain adding value at every point.
Reports and recommendations are one thing but this must be with implementation and delivering impact. This report is only a starting point to build a sustainable beef industry with support mechanisms, market awareness and sustainability at its core. The committee, with the Minister, now have responsibility to ensure that targets relating to the food sector are set out in Food Wise 2025 and are delivered as part of a sustainable and profitable industry with farmers and their families central to the conversation."
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