Factories and Creed under pressure to deliver on Chinese beef exports' hype

Michael Creed
Michael Creed
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Pressure is mounting on meat processors and the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, to deliver a return for beef farmers from the Chinese market.

Planned Chinese audits of meat processing facilities were disrupted last week when at least one factory was forced to cancel a scheduled inspection due to the ongoing beef farmer protests.

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Dawn Meats revealed in court papers recently that demand for beef in China is extremely buoyant and it expects to supply €5m worth of beef a year following the audit.

Dawn further stated the "improved access to export markets would, of course, improve the lot of farmers and producers generally by increasing the demand for Irish beef".

However, the ICMSA's livestock committee chairman, Des Morrison, said that while he appreciated the fact that the Chinese visits were facilitated, he "completely understood" why farmers were sceptical about the level of benefits that flowed back to primary producers from the opening of new markets.

"For very many years now we've heard about new markets opening up and the potential for new markets to take significant volumes of product which we're told will raise primary-producer prices, but the results and follow through are invariably very disappointing," he said.

There's very little or no rise in farmer beef price following declarations or announcements about opening new markets, maintained Mr Morrison.

"As is by now usual, by the time everyone else in the chain has taken their margin, what is left for the farmers is insignificant," he said.

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Meanwhile, Kepak warned protesting farmers that halting the initial attempt at an audit by Chinese inspectors Chinese last week was a 'massive own goal' and that the cost would be primarily borne by west of Ireland farmers.

It added that given the uncertainty around Brexit and the current weak meat market across Europe, China is one significant growth market that offers great potential for Irish beef and lamb.

The plant eventually was audited by the Chinese delegation later in the week following an agreement between management and protesters.

Minister Creed also urged farmers not to lose sight of the potential offered by the expansion of beef exports to China.

However, he said he was hesitant to say what Ireland will sell into that market because the level of trade is contingent on what the returns are relative to what they may be in other markets.

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