Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

Electronic tagging of cattle now on the cards

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Moves to introduce electronic tagging for cattle have gathered pace, with EU sources indicating that a white paper on the issue will be published by the Commission shortly.

While details of the new proposals have yet to be confirmed, the initiative is certain to meet with strong farmer opposition given the increased costs involved for cattle producers and doubts about the benefits that will accrue from its introduction.

The adoption of a similar scheme for sheep this year has been slated by farmer groups, who argue that the electronic tagging (EID) will result in higher costs for flock owners but will not significantly improve traceability.

However, a leading Commission official has accused Irish farmers of playing a "dangerous game" in opposing EID.

Michael Scannell of DG Sanco, the Commission's health and consumer affairs wing, said if Ireland wanted to lay claim to being a "food island" then it could hardly be seen to oppose measures that improved food traceability.

He pointed out that EID was devised in response to the need for greater controls in sheep movements, which was highlighted in the wake of the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak in Britain.

Mr Scannell said no formal opposition to EID was lodged by the Irish Government, which, he claimed, could be introduced at "a relatively low cost".

Meanwhile, the EU's top trade official, David O'Sullivan, has poured cold water on the chances of the WTO Doha Round being completed this year.

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With the US seeking more than just alterations to the package, which came close to being agreed in August 2008, Mr O'Sullivan said last week that a deal was unlikely to be finalised until late next year at the earliest.

Mr O'Sullivan said US demands posed a serious challenge for negotiators on all sides, because any move to open particular elements of the package would result in a total unravelling of the deal.

A review of the process is scheduled for this month, and the EU official predicted that it would be the end of next year before the process would be finalised if the modalities of an agreement are not completed by the end of the month.

When asked if he was confident of the Doha Round being completed next year, he said there was a 60-40 chance of a deal being done.

On the issue of agriculture, Mr O'Sullivan insisted there was no more room for compromise on the part of the EU.

He said the proposals on the table in the summer of 2008 represented the "only possible deal" and defended the compromises made by the EU team.

Irish Independent