Faith in the beef industry can be strengthened by the appointment of an independent meat regulator, a North Clare representative has maintained.

Clare was among a number of local authorities across the country that passed motions calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue (FF) to allow for the appointment of an independent meat regulator with statutory powers.

Recent pleas for a regulator were also made by representatives of the Beef Plan Movement on the Beef Market Taskforce and also from the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA). Local authorities in Sligo, Limerick, Donegal, Cavan, Kerry and Tipperary also passed proposals on the matter.

Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) tabled the motion in Clare and insisted that it was “very necessary at the minute”. He stated, “there is a small number of people at the top controlling the price of beef”. The appointment of an independent regulator “would be great for the small farmers that need a fair price for their beef,” he argued. “We wouldn’t be the first local authority to raise this,” the Kilmurry publican acknowledged.

Reference to the The Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry better known as the Beef Tribunal was made by Cllr Shane Talty (FF). The Tribunal began hearings in 1991 and it reported its conclusions in July 1994, at the time it was Ireland’s longest-running inquiry. “It is 30 years exactly since establishment of Beef Tribunal, I don’t think faith in the industry has ever recovered, farmers have never got away from suspicion of the industry and cartel like industries that control it,” he commented.

Support for the creation of the position was voiced by Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF). “It is the only industry where you rear an animal and you don’t know the price of something until you get it back it back in your hand. You would know the price of a pair of shoes before getting it,” he remarked. Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) backed up this viewpoint and said it was “unusual” that animals are sent to the factory without details of what the price may be.

Regulation is required in the industry, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) agreed. “Anyone producing beef wants a clear and constant price that can make their enterprise sustainable, that is the challenge going forward. The big challenge we have is the cartels dictating the price”. Cllr Pat Burke (FG) added, “The greatest certainty about the cattle trade is the uncertainty. I don’t doubt that regulation is needed”.

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