He was responding in the Dáil to Seán Kyne, a TD who asked the minister if he believes there is sufficient competition within the sector.
Mr Coveney said Munster Proteins, Cahir, Co Tipperary, and Waterford Proteins, Ferrybank, Co Waterford, are owned by ABP Group.
Dublin Proteins, which runs two facilities in Wicklow, is owned by the Ronan Group; Slaney Proteins in Wexford is owned by Slaney Foods International; Western Proteins is owned by Dawn Meats; SRCL in Kylemore, Co Dublin, is part of the Stericycle Group; and United Fish Industries in Killybegs, Co Donegal, is a subsidiary of Welcon Invest AS. College Proteins in Nobber, Co Meath; Farragh Proteins in Cavan; and Western Proteins in Mayo, are also approved as rendering plants.
“As far as I am aware, these companies are in different ownership but if the deputy has more information in that regard, I will try to be helpful on the matter,” Mr Coveney said.
“People talk all of the time about some kind of cartel operating in the beef industry but all I can say, based on my own experience, is that there is a lot of competition between the various beef companies. Companies like Dawn Meats, Kepak, ABP, and so forth are in intensive competition with each other in terms of the markets they supply. There is also a host of other, smaller companies involved in the industry such as Kildare Chilling, Slaney Meats, and so forth.
“I believe there is competition in the industry, although that might not be a popular thing to say. If there is any evidence to suggest that anything else is occurring in the marketplace, I would like to hear about it and will follow up on it.
“I do not think we should put a beef regulator in place, independent of the Government, because that would suggest that there is something seriously wrong here...
“At the moment we have a very successful beef industry in Ireland which we are looking to build on further. If there is any evidence to suggest that there is something fundamentally wrong in terms of the structures or dominance within the market, the Competition Authority can investigate that. Let us not start raising concerns about the industry here without having some evidence to back them up.”