Opinion

Don’t judge Chinese beef access until it puts money in farmers’ pockets

Earlier today, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed announced the much anticipated opening of the Chinese market to Irish beef.

Although a strong verification and powerful endorsement of Ireland’s high standards, the true value of the Chinese market to the Irish beef industry can only be judged on what it yields for farmers – not for politicians, Bord Bia or beef factories.

It’s easy for industry representatives to jump on the bandwagon and welcome the opening of such markets, but will it actually benefit farmers?

Now, most definitely, is not the time for congratulatory back-patting. Yes, the market is open; but what use is it to farmers unless it actually has a positive impact on the bottom line?

We are all well aware of ABP’s involvement in the market and particularly the three-year supply agreement – worth €50 million – reached earlier this year.

However, if just 50% of the value of this contract – and I fear it could be a lot lower – makes its way back into farmers’ pockets, we’re looking at a return of just €250 for each beef farmer in the country.

When broken down to a yearly figure, it’s even more grim and it stands at just €83. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that’s not going to cover the additional costs associated with the extended winter period just past.

So before we get caught up in the industry euphoria, remember this deal isn’t going to make you rich just yet – far from it.