Beef Plan Movement (BPM) has expressed deep concern regarding delays associated with the proposed new meat plant development in Banagher Co. Offaly.

The project, which comprised plans for a €40 million beef processing plant, came to light in July and August 2020, when investors had their application for residency under the Immigrant Investment Programme (IIP) rejected as planning permission had not been approved at the time of applying.

The project was originally granted planning permission by Offaly County Council in July 2020, but this was put on hold after an appeal was lodged.

If planning is eventually granted, the venture will represent a €40 million investment.

BPM vice chairman John Maloney commented: “We are disappointed to see An Bord Pleanála dragging its heels on this by requesting information on a potential increase in the national herd size and the environmental impact on transporting beef to China.

“Ireland is a country which prides itself in being the world’s number one in aircraft leasing and a large exporter in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

“It is also one of Europe’s top destinations for tech companies, many of whom support social media platforms which require power guzzling data centres.

“It therefore beggars belief that our regulatory organisations have taken such a negative stance on a highly nutritious indigenous product, as is beef,” he added.

Banagher plant and increased competition

BPM has said that Irish beef farmers have consistently called for more competition in the market.

According to the group, the envisaged plant in Banagher will not only create 110 jobs but will potentially open up new markets for Irish beef.

According to Maloney, there have been situations in the past when factories have been booked out, resulting in delays for farmers getting cattle killed.

“In the past, this has often led to cattle going over the 30-month age limit with farmers incurring financial penalties,” he explained.

“Developments of this nature have also been the case where the UK market goes through periods when demand is depressed and Irish factories go on a reduced kill to control output.

“Brexit is also looming on the horizon with the UK already expressing an interest in developing new trade deals with countries outside the EU.

“As a net importer of beef, it is likely the UK will use this as a bargaining chip with beef-exporting countries such as Brazil and Australia.

“The processing plant in Banagher will offer an alternative market in China and will help insulate Irish farmers from disruption to our current markets.”

Live exports

Maloney went on to point out that recent days the live shipping of dairy calves is coming under pressure from Europe.

“In the past this has acted as a safety valve for livestock farmers as it has taken excess stock out of the country,” he commented.

“In the event that live shipping of calves is diminished in the future, it is essential we have extra processing capacity to handle the extra stock when they mature.

“The environmental benefits of producing grass-fed beef in Ireland are well known. By reducing the Irish herd we are opening the door for less environmentally-efficient models of beef production to fill the marketplace.

“Countries like Brazil and the U.S, where feedlots are commonplace and cattle are fed huge volumes of grain, will simply replace Irish beef on shop shelves.”

An Bord Pleanála and methane

BPM has called on An Bord pleanála to acknowledge that the methane issue for livestock farmers will not be a long-term problem as methane-reducing additives should be available over the coming months.

“It is important we support our supply chains and ensure there is strong demand for our produce in the future,” Maloney said.

“The addition of another processor in the beef sector will be a positive development for both producers and consumers.”