Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 March 2018

'Electronic tagging is essential for sheepmeat exports to US'

Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Meat factory bosses have claimed electronic tagging is essential to export sheepmeat into the US.

Farming bodies have warned EID systems would hit profits and add to costs in the sheep industry.

“We have a world class cattle traceability system. We should demand the same for our sheep system,” said Meat Industry Ireland's Joe Ryan, as he addressed the Irish Grassland Association’s sheep conference in Mullingar.

“It is about market access and new markets.” Mr Ryan said it would be vital for the US market.

However, farming bodies have queried the necessity of an electronic tagging system, warning a pair of EID tags would cost €1.30.

Mr Ryan said they still were standing behind their five year plan for the sector in spite of the challenges of Brexit. He said they still believed the country’s sheep breeding flock could hit three million and add an extra €150m into the sector.

However, he warned it does take considerable time  and work to access new markets.

Teagasc economist Kevin Hanrahan warned the UK was the second largest net contributor to the EU’s CAP budget and sheep farmers could feel the effects of a drop in subsidies post Brexit.

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Bord Bia’s Declan Fennell said the high numbers of sheep processed so far this year, combined with sterling had impacted on prices.

There were 840,000 head of sheep processed by the factories from January to the end of April – almost 95,000 or 13pc extra compared with last year.

Average prices for the year to date are around €4.62/kg, compared with €5.20/kg last year.

“Sterling has changed dramatically,” Mr Fennell said. However, Mr Fennell pointed out the last time we had such had levels of animals through the factory the average prices were at €3.42/kg.

“Same throughput but 10 years later the prices have improved,” he said, adding there had been a stability in the sheepmeat sector. “We are diversifying and going into other markets.”

He emphasised they were headed to Shanghai next week as part of an EU-wide €3.7m advertising campaign to promote EU beef and lamb on the Asian market.

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