Co-operation among Irish beef farmers: Current perspectives and future prospects in the context of new producer organisation (PO) legislation

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Hooks, Teresa
Macken-Walsh, Áine
McCarthy, Olive
Power, Carol
Henchion, Maeve
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Irish beef farms have experienced poor viability longitudinally, with industry and policy actors citing ‘crisis’ levels in 2013. A crucial differentiator between the beef sector and the dairy sector, which has higher farm incomes, is well-developed infrastructure of farmer-owned dairy processing and marketing co-operatives. To address the lack of representative farmer organisations and power imbalances in the beef supply chain, in 2016 the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM) legislated for the establishment of beef Producer Organisations (POs), facilitating beef producers to collectively strengthen their market positioning. While PO legislation is a significant development in potentially enabling supply chain integration of farmers, how the legislation is operationalised by Irish beef industry stakeholders will ultimately shape the nature and breadth of engagement with the PO model and, consequently, the impact of the legislation. In a context where there is little or no prior experience of such organisations in the beef sector, this paper presents an analysis of current stakeholder views in relation to the establishment of POs. Research involved a desk based review of the submissions made during the consultation period for the beef PO legislation and interviews with key informants in the Irish beef industry. We analysed Irish stakeholders’ views through the lens of lessons learned from the existing literature on how POs operate internationally. Results indicate some stakeholders’ perceptions of the need for a nationally coordinated approach in the establishment of an Association of POs, which concurs with the literature. However, stakeholders have not emphasised the benefits of Interbranch Organisations (IBOs), which involve vertical collaboration with other chain actors such as processors and retailers, an approach that has proven successful internationally. Nor have Irish stakeholders identified the potential of differentiating or premiumising beef products, which, according to international evidence, is necessary for improving profitability and farm-level incomes. Stakeholders identified the main threats to the future success of POs in Ireland as members’ lack of commitment and processors’ lack of willingness to engage with POs.
Ireland , Beef farms , Producer organisations , Product differentiation , Co-operative , Values-based supply chain
Teresa, H., Áine, M.W., Olive, M., Carol, P. and Maeve, H., 2018. Co-operation among Irish beef farmers: current perspectives and future prospects in the context of new producer organisation (PO) legislation. Sustainability, 10(11): 4085, 19pp.. DOI:10.3390/su10114085
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