New labelling to solve North-South impasse

Yes Minister: Agriculture Ministers Simon Coveney and Michelle O’Neill met in Dublin to discuss the current complex challenges facing the beef industry
Yes Minister: Agriculture Ministers Simon Coveney and Michelle O’Neill met in Dublin to discuss the current complex challenges facing the beef industry
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

New branding and labelling options are being considered 
by the Department of 
Agriculture in an effort to get the cattle trade between north and south flowing again.

Farmers, marts and processors north of the Border have been hit following the
implementation of harsh 
penalties on animals that are reared in the South but slaughtered in the North.

"Beef farmers and the 
livestock marts are under awful pressure due to the implementation of unreasonable 
specifications by processors and retailers that cost up to £150/hd just because it has crossed the border and designated 'nomad'," said Sinn Fein's agriculture spokesperson, Martin Ferris.

The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney met with his northern counterpart, Michelle O'Neill, last week to explore possible solutions to the impasse.

The IFA president Eddie Downey, who was also present, said that meat processors in Northern Ireland also want the live trade to open up and are prepared to slaughter cattle from the Republic provided the necessary labelling arrangements are cleared up.

He said branding and labelling options, which meet the EU labelling requirements, have been submitted to the 
Department of Agriculture.

Mr Downey said urgent action is required before the autumn cattle trade picks up at the livestock marts where Northern Ireland buyers play a significant role.

ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan welcomed the fact that the administrations north and south were looking at all-
island solutions to fulfilling the marketing requirements of the British retailers. However, he warned that a solution had to be found soon.

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"The concept of marketing such beef in Britain on an equal footing with beef born, reared and slaughtered in the Republic needs to be examined and progressed quickly," said Mr Phelan.

ICOS has also voiced its criticism of the new rules, with ICOS director Ray Doyle  branding them as anti-competitive.

"Farmers in Northern Ireland are effectively being prevented from the purchase of cattle from the Republic by the factories.

"That's because any farmer that presents a Southern Irish-born animal in a Northern Ireland meat plant will either be turned away or suffer a penalty of up to £150/hd.

"This is clearly anti-competitive behaviour," he said.

"The unique feature of cattle and beef farming on the 
island of Ireland is the grass-fed 
nature of our beef. This is a feature which Bord Bia has always highlighted as being a unique selling point for Irish beef in all markets.

"If this characteristic was 
highlighted by the ministers of agriculture, both North and South, at European level, then maybe we could brand Irish beef as being from the island 
of Ireland.

"If this was achieved, an animal born in Ballybunion or Ballymena would all be 
'Irish Beef' and free trade could once again flourish," claimed Mr Doyle.

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