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Dawn boss slams new beef label proposals as non-event

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At the ASA Conference in Naas were speakers Jerry O'Callaghan, JBS Brazil and Niall Browne, CEO Dawn Meats

At the ASA Conference in Naas were speakers Jerry O'Callaghan, JBS Brazil and Niall Browne, CEO Dawn Meats

At the ASA Conference in Naas were speakers Jerry O'Callaghan, JBS Brazil and Niall Browne, CEO Dawn Meats

One of Ireland's major beef processors has voiced its all-out opposition to an all-Ireland beef labelling scheme.

Dawn Meats CEO, Niall Browne said that he was totally against any move towards a label that allowed beef that was processed in the North to be branded as Irish.

His comments come as an Irish delegation prepares to make an official complaint about the obstacles to north-south trade in cattle to the EU Commission.

Mr Browne also insisted that over 80pc of the prime cattle being processed by his firm were qualifying for the Quality Assurance (QA) bonus, despite figures that show that as little as one in four cattle killed nationally are securing the 12c/kg bonus.

"I am totally opposed to an all-Ireland label. As far as I'm concerned it's a non-event, and I've communicated my feeling on this to Minister Coveney," said Mr Browne, whose company processes close to 500,000 head annually.

The Dawn boss said that he did not want to encounter a scenario where he was competing with beef from Northern Ireland that was being marketed as Irish beef.

"That's just going to add to confusion for our customers and that's something I can do without," said Mr Browne, who was speaking at the ASA conference in Kildare last week.

Also attending the conference was Kepak managing director, John Horgan. However, Mr Horgan was more ambivalent to the concept of an all-island label. "If our customers want it, then we've no problem with it," he said.

The IFA said that the progress made on labelling must be built on, and called on the ministers for agriculture, North and South, to work together.

However, Dawn's opposition to the scheme is another blow to the chances of the new label succeeding. Despite assurances from the IFA that Tesco would decide on the matter last week, the British retail giant has remained silent on the issue.

In the interim, Fianna Fail have moved to lodge an official complaint with the European Commission over the operation of the internal market in the beef trade between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain.

Party spokesperson on agriculture, Éamon Ó Cuív, believes that artificial barriers have been put in place by powerful interests that are having a detrimental impact on beef farmers.

"We will be putting together a dossier of the barriers to trade that we believe are stopping Irish beef farmers achieving full value for their cattle. When the complaint is submitted we will be seeking an investigation into the operation of the beef trade on these islands," he said.

Mr Browne claimed that more and more of the prime cattle being processed by his plants were achieving the 12c/kg QA bonus.

"More than 80pc of the steers and heifers we kill are getting the full QA bonus, and that's trending up all the time," he said. In response, the ICSA said that the fact remained that one in four cattle nationally were missing out on the QA bonus.

"Over 30 month cattle, cows, bulls and over-fat animals are all being excluded from the bonus for no good reason. The reality is that there are plenty of cows on QA farms that aren't able to qualify for this payment," said beef chairman, Edmond Phelan.

Mr Browne said that less than 10pc of their intake was missing the 380kg requirement.

"We've informing farmers in the national media and through our newsletter about exactly what we require on a constant basis over the last two year," he said.

In addition, Mr Browne claimed that beef prices in Ireland were at much better levels now than 10 years ago.

"A decade ago we were only achieving 90-95pc of the EU average beef price. Today we're at 100pc of the average price. In fact, even after the 10pc fall in prices this year, returns are still 30pc higher today than they were five years ago," he said.

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