Irish beef barons eye up slice of American and Chinese markets
New trade deals could make billionaires out of a handful of tycoons who control the Irish beef industry and have already amassed vast personal fortunes, writes Simon Rowe
Ireland's beef barons are licking their lips as a new trade deal paves the way for them to recommence exports to the lucrative US market - and entry to the massive Chinese market looks imminent too.
The US market - the largest consumers of beef in the world - has re-opened to Irish exporters following a deal agreed in January.
The lifting of a 15-year ban imposed on European beef in the wake of the mad cow disease outbreak in the 1990s offers a major boost to processors whose profits were hit by the horsemeat scandal - and a lifeline to hard-pressed Irish beef farmers who face depressed prices at home.
Ireland has also moved a step closer to securing a slice of China's €51bn beef market, following a pre-Christmas meeting between top Irish and Chinese agriculture officials in Beijing.
The world's second largest economy has long-running bans on beef imports from many countries - but Ireland is one of just three countries that China is in talks with about opening up to beef (the other two are Canada and the USA).
If Ireland can capture even a small percentage of the US and Chinese markets, it could make billionaires out of a handful of tycoons who control the beef industry in this country and have already amassed vast personal fortunes.
Three firms dominate the beef processing market in Ireland - Larry Goodman's ABP; Dawn Meats, controlled by the Browne and Queally families; and the Kepak Group, owned by the Keating family. Together they control 60pc of the market.
A further four companies - Liffey Meats, Slaney Meats, Kildare Chilling and Dunbia - account for an additional 25pc of the Irish market.