Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

Ireland faces competition from Brazil for slice of US beef market

Paul Finnerty of ABP
Paul Finnerty of ABP
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

THE head of Ireland's largest beef processor said the growth of valuable high-end exports of beef to the US must be viewed as a three-to-five-year project.

Paul Finnerty, chief executive of ABP, said the sales of top-quality, grass-fed beef into the high-end US market have been "slow" so far.

"You would measure it against that sort of timeframe. Thus far it is slow, but not necessarily any slower than we would have expected," he said.

However, Ireland is expected to face competition for a slice of the US trade with a reduced availability of quota pool after Brazil was also granted access to the market.

Richard Clinton, group commercial director at Dawn Meats, which this week received approval from the EU Competition Commission for a 49pc stake in Elivia, the second largest beef and veal processor in France, said the initial opportunity in the US is for "niche high-end" prime cuts.

He said they have been on the ground in the US for the last 18 months for their premium range of beef products.

A meat industry source said it is clear the scale of opportunity for Irish processors was welcome but it has been "over-hyped".

"It only allows access for primal cuts not destined for grinding. This is where the real opportunity might lie in the future," he added.

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Mr Finnerty said the "sheer volume" of the Chinese market had great potential for Irish beef when it opens this year.

Irish beef is back on the menu in the US since earlier this year for the first time since a ban was introduced over fears of BSE 16 years ago, with three processors granted US export licences.

Mr Finnerty said he also feels there is opportunities for both the dairy and beef sector to work more closely together with the end of milk quotas.

"If you look at dairying and dairy growth and dairy replacements every year there is going to be a calf. I think there is greater opportunity for the beef and dairy sector to work more closely and using genomics to have more Angus and Hereford breeds coming from the dairy herds," he said.

"I think that is a positive. Dairy doesn't naturally produce the best quality beef but by the use of genomics I think you can start to reposition so that you have a product that is more suited to the market."

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