Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Italian connection prompts surge of interest in GM-free maize

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Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

INTEREST has been growing from feedlots in GM-free maize following the move by a leading Italian retailer to look for GM and antibiotic-free meat.

Quinns of Baltinglass, one of the three mills approved by the Italian retailer, said there had been a rise in inquiries from feedlots about supplies since Co-op Italia signalled its interest in buying 'green' Irish beef from its suppliers.

"We are offering a blend of native grains and pulses, with beans as the protein, oats for fibre, barley and wheat," said Valerie Hobson of Quinns. "Guys love feeding maize to finishing cattle."

However, she warned it was harder to get GM-free maize, as the produce grown outside Europe was mainly off GM seeds.

Ms Hobson said they cannot guarantee maize from the Ukraine or Poland. "There is a small premium on the mixes charged - somewhere around €15-20/t above the usual price.

"However, the maize can be a bit more difficult with a €20-30/t premium."

Martin Garvey of Grennans said interest in GM-free maize has increased off a low base in the past few weeks, driven by the Co-op Italia announcement.

He said there would be more opportunities for Irish grain growers to produce more grains and beans for protein requirements in their mixes.

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Grennans GM-free finishing diet and weanling diet mix comes in at €10-15/t more than the conventional mix.

Co-op Italia representative Pat O'Rourke said the low usage of antibiotics in Ireland made it a good location for the retailer to source meat from suppliers.

He expects an increase on the estimated 5,000 weanlings currently exported to feedlots supplying the Co-op. The Co-op also purchases around 30,000 animals fed on GM-free rations through Kepak's KK Club.

Pilot sale

Meanwhile, Helen Kells at Carrigallen Mart got a strong response from farmers at a pilot sale of antibiotic and GM-free weanlings. She said the sale was small but the reaction was positive and they would continue to offer the option as sale sizes increase over the autumn.

However, she said that while the special sales have potential, there was nothing to indicate that they wouldn't have had the same trade without the GM-free status.

Farmers were asked to sign on a tablet that their animals met the requirements and then a sticker was placed on the animals to alert feedlot buyers.

"Some were a bit confused as to what GM-free was, so we had to explain no soya or maize meal unless approved," she said.

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