Beef farmers are reeling after the Irish Government confirmed it was paying the wages of processors’ staff, allowing cheap imports to flood the UK market.
Many of the present players in the red meat sector, including some UK supermarkets are nothing less than ’morally bankrupt’ according to Dumfriesshire beef farmer Jim Walker.
As Farmers Guardian reported last week, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda were under fire for stocking Irish beef at at a time of plentiful supply of British beef.
Mr Walker claimed they were making colossal margins from selling state subsidised Irish beef while at the same time benefiting from UK taxpayer funded rates relief.
The Irish Government said it was currently paying 70 to 80 per cent of the labour costs in the Irish abattoirs in line with its temporary Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme.
A Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said: "The Irish Government seeks to support all industries and business at this most challenging time."
But Mr Walker said the scheme would give the four big Irish meat companies a huge competitive advantage.
He added: "This is the fourth time they have done this. The first was during the BSE crisis, then at foot-and mouth time, then during Brexit and now during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Last year Irish EU Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan contrived to make a 100 million euro payment to the Irish beef industry while UK farmgate prices stayed on the floor."
Mr Walker also claimed UK supermarkets have made an ’absolute fortune’ from the situation, while raking in business rates relief.
He said: "They have been making more money than ever while raking in business rates relief. Tesco alone applied for £785 million in relief and then the next day announced dividends of £900 million. It is easy to see why I think they are morally bankrupt.”
The former NFU Scotland and Quality Meat Scotland chairman suggested it was time for beef farmers and their families to check out the supermarket shelves.
“Produce fact sheets and let the public know what is really happening,” he said.
Mr Walker, who is currently leading a government- sponsored group looking at restoring profitability to Scottish sucker beef enterprises, suggested the Scottish Government had the power to suspend business rate relief to any multiple retailer persisting in filling its stores with subsidised meat imports.