Ag Committee to question Minister Creed over cattle tag U-turn

The Oireachtas Select Committee on Agriculture will meet in private session today to discuss the Department of Agriculture’s recent decision to withdraw its tender for a new cattle tag supplier.

The Department, last week, announced that it was scrapping its tender for a single supplier of cattle tags in the State and would, instead, move towards the adoption of an approval system which would enable approved suppliers, meeting specified standards and conditions, to supply tags in Ireland for the official bovine ID system. The details of the approval process are expected to be be announced shortly.

Until the decision last week, the Department had staunchly defended its position – that a single supplier is the ‘optimum mechanism’ for ensuring that ear tags are made available to Irish farmers at a competitive price,  while at the same time meeting the identification requirements of the bovine sector in Ireland for superior quality bovine tags.

However, the new approach will permit multiple suppliers to supply eartags for cattle with the Department stressing that the new system will be based on a robust approval system both of tags and suppliers.

According to the Department, approved suppliers will be required to meet minimum standards relating to the quality of tags, quality of service, issuing of birth registration documents etc. thereby ensuring that there would be no diminution in service standards to Irish livestock farmers.

The Department made the decision on the back of legal issues raised by at least two potential bidders for the multi-million euro tender.

Both are understood to have raised concerns over elements of the tenders specification which in their view diminished greatly their prospects of being successful.

The Department, however, has not said that the issues raised by the parties resulted in the withdrawal of the tender and instead said that the issues raised had the potential to delay the adjudication of tenders beyond the expiry date of the existing contract. Thus, undermining the supply of cattle tags to farmers.

TDs are also set to question Minister Creed over the shape of the new system with concerns amongst some that an approval process may lead to a proliferation of cattle tag suppliers resulting in a possible increase in the cost of tags for farmers.

Both IFA and ICMSA have expressed a preference for a single supplier of cattle tags, with only the ICSA saying it is in favour of the multiple supplier model.