‘Approval for new plants is neutral on processing capacity needs’ – Minister

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has said that his department’s approval process of new meat processing plants is “neutral” on whether additional processing capacity is required.

Minister McConalogue was responding to parliamentary questions from Dublin South-Central TD Bríd Smith, who asked the minister if it is policy “not to pursue additional capacity in the sector, as stated by the Immigration Investor Programme (IIP) evaluation committee“; and if not pursuing additional capacity “denies farmers access to markets and creates barriers to trade”.

In response to these, the minister said: “My department has a statutory responsibility to approve slaughter plants in accordance with [EU] regulations.

Such approval is neutral on whether or not additional slaughter capacity is required, rather it assesses premises in accordance with meeting the strict criteria laid down in the EU legislation.

“With regard to any proposed additional processing facilities, I would urge those involved to engage with my department veterinary officials at an early stage in order to understand and address the requirements for approval to be registered with the department and to operate as a meat establishment under EU and Irish law,” Minister McConalogue added.

Department expressed doubts over Banagher

However, it appears that the department had expressed doubts to the IIP evaluation committee over the strategic value of the Banagher Chilling development, documents appear to show.

A communication from the Department of Justice (which the IIP comes under), seen by AgriLand, outlines that part of the process in making decisions relating to foreign investment (the main function of the IIP) includes receiving submissions from the relevant line department.

The document outlines that the relevant line department for the Banagher Chilling development is the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The document notes that this submission from the Department of Agriculture was summarised as: “The proposed plant does not meet an identified strategic requirement for additional processing capacity, and there are no guarantees at this stage that it would meet the high standards required for EU and Chinese approval.”