Navan-based accountant Philip Farrelly, a former President of the Agricultural Consultants Association, has told Agriland that only new thinking will help solve the problems currently confronting the Irish beef industry.

Speaking at the Virginia Show, he said: “The fundamental problem confronting the sector is the fact that there is not sufficient money coming in, courtesy of the final beef price, to cover the costs of everyone involved in the production chain.

“Mind you, we have been here before. There have been at least 30 reports produced over the past 40 years, containing blueprints to put the beef industry on a sustainable footing.”

He said that all of these grand proposals have come to nothing. “Moreover, the same organisations and individuals have been involved in preparing these strategies. And my deep concern now is that these very same organisations will be asked again to come forward with another ‘plan’ for the future.

“But the great weakness in taking this approach is simply this: if we rely on the same people this time around, inevitably, we will come up with a re-hash of previously proposed solutions that did not work in the past and will not work in the future.”

Not surprisingly, Philip Farrelly believes passionately that new thinking must be brought to bear in order to give the Irish beef industry a fighting chance for the future.

“And, if needs be, this means bringing in people from another country with a track record of success in other sectors,” he said.

“Irish beef farmers produce a very high quality product with a provenance that is second to none. It is this message that must be communicated to our customers around the world. We must strive to secure better prices for Irish beef. And in this regard, we can take a leaf out of the coffee industry’s book. Over the past 20 years that sector has managed to have its products put on sale at premium prices in petrol forecourts and specialist retail outlets in every country around the world.

“Most people now drink two or possibly three cups of expensive coffee per day. If we could generate this level of demand for our beef, Irish livestock farmers would benefit accordingly,” he concluded.