Business Farming

Friday 19 September 2014

NI cattle supply shortage behind new label moves

Published 05/08/2014 | 00:00

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Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness
Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness

A "critical shortage" of cattle at Northern processing plants is providing the crucial momentum behind moves to reopen the North-South beef trade.

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ICOS director Ray Doyle said that it suited retailers and processors to drag their heals on the issue up to now because it was a convenient way of "locking up stock in three separate regions."

"Now that key Northern processors are running short of stock, we see that all of a sudden there are solutions being tabled to get 50,000 head of cattle moving again," he said.

"Prior to horsemeat, much of the beef that was born in the South but finished and slaughtered in the North was sold as British beef, and nobody batted an eye. But now the big retailers are sitting on the processors, which is why Southern-born stock that arrive in the North have suddenly become 'nomads'."

Nomad cattle have been discounted by €188 (£150) in Northern plants in recent months. All efforts are now being concentrated on allowing beef that states 'Born in Ireland; reared in Ireland/UK; slaughtered in UK' to be marketed as Irish beef.

Submissions have been made to the EU Commission, but this is now being subjected to an external evaluation before the Commission considers giving it the green light.

Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness said that Commissioner Ciolos was aware of the complaints by beef producers here.

However, the Commissioner claimed that the issue was about the private commercial relationships between the producers and the meat industry.

"The Commissioner said processors and producers should be able to work together and manage the type and volume of cattle being brought to the market so that the supply chain operates for the benefit of every party," said Ms McGuinness.

Commissioner Ciolos also believes that new rules introduced in the CAP reforms regarding contractual negotiations in the beef sector could help Irish farmers.

However, ICOS's Ray Doyle predicted that the same situation is about to emerge in the North-South sheep
trade.

"About 400,000 head come South to be processed every year, and these are the next ticking time-bomb in relation to the games being played with labelling rules," said Mr Doyle.

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