Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 8 December 2016

Irish beef losing out in competition for US and Chinese markets

ABP boss says delays in access setting back industry

Conor Kane

Published 29/07/2015 | 02:30

Meaty issues: Mark Goodman, commercial director (international) ABP Food Group with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at last week's launch of the redeveloped ABP Food Group facilities in Cahir, Co Tipperary. Photo: Chris Bellew/Fennell's
Meaty issues: Mark Goodman, commercial director (international) ABP Food Group with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at last week's launch of the redeveloped ABP Food Group facilities in Cahir, Co Tipperary. Photo: Chris Bellew/Fennell's

The chief executive of the country's largest beef processor has warned countries like Australia were gaining a "competitive advantage" due to delays fully accessing the US and Chinese markets.

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It was a key issue raised at last week's Beef Forum.

And ABP CEO Paul Finnerty said there is a lot of frustration in the processing sector with delays in finally opening up new overseas markets for Irish beef.

"It's giving countries like Australia a competitive advantage over us," Mr Finnerty told the Farming Independent at the opening of ABP Food Group's €50m expansion in Cahir, Co Tipperary last week.

"We need to try and get there as an industry. And then we're looking for the Chinese market to open.

"There's huge quantities of product going into China from competing countries to Ireland such as New Zealand, Australia, Uruguay and, more recently, Brazil, so we need to have full access to that market in order to achieve the best prices for what we're selling." It comes as Australia reports beef exports up 11pc with output of nine million head, with China performing particularly well.

ABP has expanded its production capabilities in recent years to capitalise on growing markets but America and China remain "the key ones," he said. "We're very keen on Asia as a whole: Japan, The Philippines, but China is the big one."

ABP has done what it can to become more efficient but it was impossible to ignore "the fact that Irish cattle at the moment are 110pc of the average European price, so our product is very expensive."

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Costs

The difference is even greater between Irish beef and its counterpart from the likes of South America and Australia, he said.

"So there's a lot of markets we're just not cost-competitive in when you look at some of those other territories like the Philippines and Japan at the moment."

The expanded plant opened by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Cahir now employs over 600 people, with hopes this will increase, with over 1,000 indirect jobs supported.

Over 150 new jobs will be created at the upgraded facility and new gel-bone production plant which will see bovine bones being processed into gel for use in the pharmaceutical and beauty industries. The ICSA queried if farmers would receive an improved price from the added value from the processing of bones.nes.

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