Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Beef imports halved since horse scandal

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Beef imports have almost halved in the wake of the horsemeat crisis last spring.

However, Ireland still imported over 6,000 tonnes of beef valued at €26m during a three month period in 2013.

Britain remains the main source of our imported beef, mainly of cull cow beef carcasses, many of which come in through Northern Ireland to then be incorporated into the South's large burger processing industry.

CSO data shows that British imports were back by 42pc for three quarters of our total imports during March, April and May this year.

The other countries that have seen an average decrease of close to 80pc are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Spain and Poland.

Remarkably, Irish meat processors continued to import almost €250,000 of beef from Poland during the 13-week period covered by the data. This is despite the fact that Poland being implicated as the source for meat containing up to 80pc horsemeat last January.

The category that has seen the biggest fall is the frozen edible beef offal segment, which fell by over 70pc over the course of the last year.

Prepared edible offal also fell by almost 60pc, while frozen carcasses also fell by over 50pc.

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These were the main import ingredients for our burger processing industry, often referred to as visible lean or 'VLs' in the trade.

In March 2012, we imported over 1,000t of prepared bovine offal from Britain. This amount fell to just 177t in March this year.

In May 2012, imports of this category from Poland totalled 63t, but this had dropped to 22t by May 2013.

The total value of imports during the two periods fell by a smaller amount than the volumes involved, indicating that meat traders here are focusing more on imports of higher value cuts.


ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan said that the drop in beef import figures should not lead to a sense of complacency in the industry.

"The fact that there are still beef imports from 18 different countries including Brazil, Uruguay and Poland suggests the need for ongoing vigilance by the regulatory authorities," Mr Phelan said.

"Perhaps some of the drop in imports can be explained by the possibility that retail customers are a little bit more careful of what they are selling in the light of the horsemeat revelations," he added.

While the import levels from most of these countries is quite low, farmers here continue to ask why Ireland- which exports 85-90pc of its beef- needs to import any beef at all?"

Irish Independent