Taking beef to next level

IFA's plan to meet Food Harvest 2020 targets

Targets of the plan are ambitious, but achievable
Targets of the plan are ambitious, but achievable
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

As the largest net beef exporter in Europe, Irish beef and livestock is well positioned to grow.

There is increasing demand for beef on the back of growing populations, consumer prosperity and increasing global consumption. Coupled with the growing EU beef market deficit, the signs are good.

On the market side, good progress has been made in recent years with Irish beef now on the shelves of 70 major UK and EU retail groups. The next phase in development must be to return higher prices back to producers and close the price gap with UK and EU prices in order to drive profitable production and expansion at farm level.

The Food Harvest 2020 target of a 20pc increase in output value for the sector is ambitious, but achievable. However, it requires a sustainable profitability to be achievable on livestock farms. This will require major changes, which are outlined in the IFA's 54-point plan (right) that was unveiled last week.

Achieving sustained and viable profit levels on livestock farms will require major changes, according to the IFA. These include increasing cattle prices to UK and EU levels, providing real price competition, maximising all market outlets, fully protecting direct payments, increasing productivity and efficiency, and reducing costs. Stabilising and growing the quality suckler cow herd is also essential for the beef sector, as well as implementing efficient and well focused programmes on research and advice in Teagasc, marketing and promotion in An Bord Bia and cattle breeding in ICBF.

On the policy side, protecting and resourcing the vital farm schemes of Suckler Cow Welfare, REPS and AEOS and Disadvantage Area payments is also critical to profit for beef and livestock farmers.

At EU level, protecting the CAP budget, guaranteeing Ireland's national envelope, and maintaining the current payment model so as to ensure no farmer is at a single payment loss from CAP 2013 is vital considering the important role direct payments play in livestock farm incomes. On international policy, it is vital that European and Irish agriculture, and particularly the beef and livestock, is properly protected and not sold out in the Mercosur and WTO trade negotiations.

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