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Friday 9 December 2016

Meat bosses slam IFA report on beef sector

Published 06/09/2016 | 02:30

IFA President Joe Healy. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke
IFA President Joe Healy. Photo: Finbarr O'Rourke

Meat Industry Ireland has dismissed IFA concerns about reduced competition in the beef sector if Larry Goodman’s ABP succeeds in buying out Bert Allen’s 50pc share of Slaney Foods.

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They point to the “phenomenal performance” of Irish beef exports selling for 110pc of the EU average this year.

ABP lodged their finalised application for the buy-out with the EU Commission last week, just days before the deadline imposed when details of the deal were first made public in December last year.

A spokesperson for the EU Commission also revealed to the Farming Independent that they will be making their ruling on the case within the next five weeks.

The IFA also submitted its analysis of the impact of the deal to the DG Competition in Brussels this week. It claimed the move by ABP will significantly weaken competition in the beef sector by increasing the firm’s share of the national prime kill from 26pc to 36pc.

Joe Healy, IFA president, said the major finding of the report is that the cattle market for Irish beef farmers is characterised by weak competition.

“This report is very clear on the competition concerns in the beef sector, the income pressures that exist for livestock producers and the impact that any weakening of competition would have on their livelihoods”.

MEP’s are also weighing in behind the IFA’s stance, with EU parliament vice president Mairead McGuinness stating that she intends to alert the EU Competition Commissioner of her concerns over the deal.

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“If there is a diminution of competition in the sector, which we believe will happen with this, then we would have huge concerns,” she said.

However, Meat Industry Ireland has roundly dismissed the claims.

Slump

The association, which represents business interests of the beef and lamb processing sector in Ireland, said the report cannot be described as “independent” and that suspicions over a looming slump in competition for finished cattle are “completely at variance with the facts”.

A spokesperson from MII said: “The report was commissioned by the IFA to reflect its longstanding position about competition in the beef sector. No doubt this will be taken into account when the appropriate competent authorities consider any proposals submitted to them for adjudication under competition rules”.

MII claim that there is strong competition for cattle, even more so for in-spec cattle.

“This is largely demonstrated by the fact that Irish finished cattle prices have been well above the EU average for the last 18 months and for a period this year, were  well in excess of 110pc of the EU average,” said a spokesperson.

The association describes this as a “phenomenal performance given that the Irish industry exports 90pc of what we produce into markets where the price of cattle has been consistently below the prices paid here for finished cattle. Processors here pay more than their continental competitors.

“Rather than suggesting weak competition, the level of competition is extremely strong by comparison with any other EU market.

“Indeed Irish cattle prices have progressively risen by over 40pc in the

last five  years,” said the MII spokesperson.

MII said farmers should focus  on “real issues” such as challenges and risks arising from the UK decision to leave the EU including:  exchange rate competitiveness losses,  threats to exports in our largest market, and displacement by imports in our home market.

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