Chinese, US markets 'key to avoiding cattle glut'
Published 23/07/2015 | 02:30
Farmers have called for efforts to be doubled to fully open up the US and Chinese markets for Irish beef, amid concerns a "glut" of cattle will send prices spiralling downwards in 2017.
In contrast to dairymen, who are suffering from slumping milk prices, the sums being paid to cattle farmers at meat factory gates has climbed steadily this year.
However, farmers have raised concerns that the steady growth in prices may be decimated if a flood of beef hits the market in 12 to 18 months' time due to the expansion of the post-quota dairy herd.
Meat Industry Ireland (MII), representing the valuable beef processing industry, warned that access to markets was essential as the key bodies in the sector held a Beef Roundtable this week.
"Extra efforts are urgently needed to ensure that key markets, such as the US and China are fully open," said MII chair Philip Carroll. "This will allow processors to secure a growing share of these markets".
Earlier this year, Irish beef was put back on the US menu for the first time since a ban was introduced over BSE, with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney saying that the Chinese market would be opened later this year.
Mr Coveney, who chaired the discussion, said there had been a "steady" improvement in prices this year, compared with the first roundtable discussion last year.
Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) general secretary Pat Smith said there was "no volume" of beef going to either country so far.
"With the extra cattle that we see on the ground, there are 120,000 extra calves registered this year. The minister has to make sure those markets are opened- Korea, China - and that volumes of beef start moving," he said.
The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association has warned the extra numbers of calves on the ground will result in a "huge glut" of cattle.
Meanwhile, the IFA has called on the Government to make sure agriculture "gets the recognition it deserves" at the launch of its pre-Budget submission.
IFA president Eddie Downey said it was not the first time that "agriculture was required to come to the rescue and bailed out the economy".
It is seeking to retain 90pc agricultural relief for farm transfers and an earned income tax credit for self-employed workers.