Beef exports to the UK - Minister must deal with issue

Plans by British retailers to change the specifications of beef they are willing to buy could have serious consequences for Ireland’s agriculture industry. The price farmers get for beef has already fallen by €200 per animal in the past year.

Now retailers are using the 2012 horsemeat scandal as an excuse to impose more rigorous specifications on Irish beef.

According to Padraig Browne, the group procurement director of Dunbia meat group, Irish beef farmers are now suffering the direct result of the fallout from the horsemeat scandal 18 months ago which has resulted in British retailers increasing their preference for British beef and changing the specifications of the beef they are willing to buy.

In contrast, beef farmers in Nothern Ireland have done well from the horsemeat scandal. Prices are rising there, as in the rest of the UK. This is a serious situation for Irish farmers as 53% of Irish beef exports go to the UK. It is a situation that, so far, appears to have eluded the serious attention of Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.

The President of the Irish Farmers Association, Eddie Downey, wants the minister to chair a forum of beef industry representatives to ensure the viability of the sector.

In fairness to the minister, he initiated a Beef Forum in March, set up to help move the industry beyond the current crisis, but a more rigorous engagement is needed to deal with the situation before it gets out of control.

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