Factories happy for Minister to look at role of feedlots in beef sector

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Meat Industry Ireland has said it is happy for the Minister for Agriculture to look at the role of ‘controlled finishing units’ or feedlots in the sector.

It comes as a report from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture called for a review of feedlots and their impact on the beef trade.

Meat Industry Ireland, which represents the meat processors, said there has been much misinformation circulated on feedlots in recent months.

"MII has continuously highlighted that factory owned/controlled feedlots accounts for less than 5pc of cattle and these are important to ensure all year round supply of in-spec cattle for key customer accounts which are important to the sector.

"The vast majority of controlled finishing units are farmer-owned and operated."

In a statement, it said it welcomed the report it said Brexit, Climate Change and an EU-Mercosur trade deal remain the most serious strategic challenges facing the sector.

"The most imminent of these is the threat presented by an EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement that could be finalised this week and that could see the European Commission grant additional access to the European market for vast quantities of low priced, less environmentally efficient beef from the South American trading bloc. Even at this late stage, the Government must resist this unacceptable undermining of domestic EU and Irish beef production.

“We must remain focused on the impending threat of a No-deal Brexit and also work collectively in the sector to meet our obligations as part of Ireland’s efforts to meet climate change commitments.”

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The report, from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, published today calls for a review of feedlots' impact on the trade and securing an EU quality mark for Irish suckler beef are among the key proposals in a new report on the beef industry.

It also calls for:

  • the exclusion of beef products from the EU's Free Trade Agreement with Mercosur
  • a review of the Quality Payment System (QPS) and associated grading practices
  • taking steps to implement the EU's Unfair Trading Practices Directive on food prices
  • a dedicated live export section to be established in the Department of Agriculture.
  • Live exporters set up an association to represent their interests
  • Pursues the establishment of a more detailed Meat Market Observatory at EU level.
  • Directs funding to research to improve sexed semen techniques
  • Endeavours to ensure that the concerns of all stakeholders are considered in the formulation of Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan.

While the report says there are no "silver bullet" solutions to solving the beef sector's problems, the committee says its recommendations will assist in "empowering producers" and help "ensure they are in a position to extract a fairer price from the high-quality products they produce".

The committee also says it is necessary to review the progress of Food Wise 2025 to date, given that the strategy has nearly reached its mid-point.

And members of the committee are understood to believe there is real concern with regard to the levels of profitability of primary producers in the beef sector.

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