The Rural Independent Group has slammed the government for failing to create an independent beef regulator to protect the sector, claiming farmers have been “let down” by a lack of action on the “broken” beef system.
The remarks came following a Dáil motion by the group calling for better regulation of what they called “Beef Barons” – a motion which the government did not commit to.
“This week the government response to our motion was wishy-washy, non-committal and full of pretence,” said Deputy Mattie Mc Grath, leader of the Rural Independent Group.
“This approach is failing farmers and farm families and only serves to protect the interests of the beef barons.”
“The current beef system in Ireland is broken. My colleagues and I presented an ideal opportunity for government to do something tangible towards protecting farmers’ interests, by establishing a beef regulator capable of protecting the economic interests of farmers against the powers of the processors and retailers. Instead of tackling the issue and moving with decisiveness on our proposals, the government seem content to allow a regime of light touch and ineffective regulation to persist, a system which forces farmers to accept below cost prices.”
Deputy McGrath went on to describe the development as “extremely disappointing”, claiming that the government had favoured “big players” and “vested interests” over ordinary farmers.
“In opposition, Fianna Fail were using every opportunity to call for a beef regulator,” Deputy McGrath added.
“Now, inside government and enjoying the trappings of power, they have gone silent, despite holding the agriculture portfolio. Incredibly, the current Agriculture Minister has stated that it is now unreasonable for farmers to seek a price above the cost of production. It is as if he has become the protector of factory interests.
“Our proposals seek a regulator with real powers and resources to oversee the sector and to make direct recommendations to government. The Irish Beef sector has gone from crisis to crisis for years. Farmers have always been the losers.”
McGrath described the current beef system as an “oligopoly,” adding that big business was able to effectively “fix prices” and manipulate the market.
“The only way to deal with such unethical practices is through rigorous and robust policy and regulation measures, to curtail such behaviour,” the Deputy concluded.