British beef imports hit over €84m in 2016
Up to 29,000t of beef with a value of €109m were imported into Ireland last year, according to figures released by the Department of Agriculture.
The 2016 figures show that Britain was by far the biggest source of beef imports, with English, Scottish and Welsh factories supplying 22,000t worth over €84m.
Northern Ireland was second largest supplier of beef into the Republic. Factories based north of the border supplied almost 4,000t valued at €14.4m.
The UK in total supplied almost 90pc of all beef imports both in tonnage and value terms.
This reflects the high level of integration between the Irish and British beef industries, with Irish giants ABP, Dawn Meats and Dunbia all having sizeable processing operations in both jurisdictions.
The Netherlands, Germany, Poland and France were the main sources for beef imports after Britain and Northern Ireland.
Imports from Holland totalled 820 tonnes worth €2.5m, Germany supplied 670 tonnes valued at €2.99m, Poland exported 470 tonnes worth €2.1m, while French imports totalled €714,000 and involved 220 tonnes.
Ireland is one of the largest nett exporters of beef in the Northern Hemisphere each year. Beef exports usually average around 500,000t. In 2016 Irish beef exports were worth €2.38bn.
The figures for meat imports were provided in response to a Dáil question of Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed, which was put down by Fianna Fáil's Jackie Cahill.
In terms of sheep meat imports, 3,680 tonnes were imported in 2016, valued at €19.25m. Britain supplied 92pc of the imports or 3,395t worth €17.45m.
Commenting on the level of imports, Minister Creed said: "Typically, imports into Ireland are made up of lower value manufacturing product or carcase beef or sheep meat, which undergoes some further processing by Irish companies before re-export."
He added that while Ireland was a net exporter of both beef and sheep meat, imports made "an important contribution to the overall output of these sectors nationally" and constituted "a necessary component of the overall trade flows in these sectors."
However, this view was challenged by Michael Guinan of the ICMSA. He said the level of imports warranted "further investigation".
Guinan said that since Irish farmers were required to meet exacting, traceability, quality assurance and animal welfare criteria they expected that beef and sheep meat imported into the country was produced to similar standards.
"Farmers would like to know where this product ended up, whether it went for further processing or ended up on Irish plates," he said.
He maintained that the Food Safety Authority and the Department of Agriculture should be involved in any future assessment of meat imports.
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