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Ministers Meet to Discuss Beef

25 July 2014

IRELAND - Building on previous discussions, Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney invited his Northern Irish counterpart Michelle O’Neill to Dublin to discuss issues currently facing the beef sector on both parts of the island.

Significant reductions in market prices in Ireland, the UK and across Europe this year, have been driven by a range of factors, including demand and supply dynamics, retailer procurement strategies, customer loyalties and the relative costs of alternative protein sources such as pig meat and poultry.

In addition, the traditional trade in live animals from Ireland, for slaughter in Northern Ireland, is down significantly, as UK retailers focus on marketing beef under either an “Irish” of “British” label.

This has led to a reduction in demand from Northern processors for animals born in the Republic, as the meat from animals born and slaughtered in different Member States is subject to more complex labelling under EU rules.
Both Ministers agreed that the issues around origin labelling are complex, and that any consideration of them should be informed by what is legally possible, and in the best long term interests of both farmers and consumers. However, in the case of meat from animals exported live from the Republic for slaughter in Northern Ireland, there is a strong case to be made for marketing it in Britain on an equal footing with beef born reared and slaughtered in the Republic.

While the marketing of beef in retail outlets is ultimately a commercial decision, both Ministers agreed to make a joint approach to UK retailers on this matter with a view to finding solutions.

Concluding, the Ministers committed to continuing their ongoing collaboration on arrange of issues, including the harmonisation of animal health and welfare policies North and South, and to work together with a view to positioning beef produced on the island as a premium product, delivering maximum returns for farmers and restoring confidence in the beef sector in both jurisdictions.

While welcoming the news that Ministers Coveney and O’Neill have agreed to make a joint approach to UK retailers regarding the marketing of meat from animals exported live from the Republic for further feeding in Northern Ireland, ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan warned that a solution to this issue must be found “sooner rather than later”.

“The concept of marketing such beef in Britain on an equal footing with beef born, reared and slaughtered in the Republic needs to be examined and progressed quickly,” said Mr. Phelan.

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