Offal worth up to €800m is exported annually by the meat industry, and farmers want a fair share of the returns.
Information given by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed in the Dáil last week indicated that annual offal exports in 2018 were worth €395.4m from the beef industry €123.4m from the pig industry, €184.7m from the poultry industry, €11m from the sheepmeat industry, and €5m from the fish industry.
However, the Minister said these figures from the Central Statistics Office are for more than 50 classifications of offal, and it cannot be determined whether this data refers exclusively to offals and parts of the carcass that are not being used for meat production.
“It is likely that the above figures overstate the exact amount of our offal exports”, he said
The Minister was responding in the Dáil to Fianna Fail agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue, who asked why farmers are not paid for the fifth quarter, the remaining pieces of an animal carcase that are not used for meat production, and which processors use for export business.
Mr Creed answered that he cannot intervene directly in any commodity price, including in relation to meat offals.
“The fifth quarter is the most serious aspect of what the factories are doing to farmers,” said Independent Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae in the Dáil in March.
“It is worth more than €270 to the factory, but farmers do not get one red cent of it.
The factories sell offal, tendons, tongues, hides, hooves and all those parts of the animals, but they do not give one cent to the farmer.
“It is stealing and robbery from farmers who work from dark to dark to put good animals into the factories.”
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association has suggested during the beef forums chaired by Minister Creed that up to €150 extra revenue per animal was accruing to beef factories.
In 2018, ICSA beef committee chair Edmond Phelan said. “There was a time when offal and skins had limited or no value and in fact were costing money to dispose of.
“Those days are long gone. Instead, the fifth quarter is becoming more and more valuable.
We have seen factories invest in new facilities to reap the benefits but they have been very reluctant to admit that farmers should be getting some of the benefit.
He said beef processors do not pay for offal and other by-products, even though they are helped by Bord Bia actively looking for markets for these products which they get for free.
“This can only be described as a real bonanza for processors”.