A meat processer has indicated that Northern Ireland’s beef sector should be promoted as part of an all-island initiative, with Bord Bia taking on the role as lead marketing agency.

“The Republic of Ireland has been effectively promoted as the food island,” said Peter Hannan of Moira-based Hannan Meats.

“And I see no reason why the beef industry in the North cannot take advantage of the work that has already been carried out in this regard. What’s more, Bord Bia has offices in 13 countries around the word and is best placed to market the beef produced, north and south.

“This is no reflection on the work carried out by the marketing agencies in Northern Ireland. The reality is that Bord Bia is better resourced to do the work that is required to deliver better returns right along the agri food chain. I also believe that Bord Bia’s management would welcome the opportunity of working more closely with the beef industry in Northern Ireland.”

But irrespective of which organisation is charged with the responsibility of marketing Irish beef, Hannon believes that a five year plan must be put in place which will see beef from the island of Ireland featuring in every top class restaurant and retail outlet in Europe.

“By taking this approach, farmers will be guaranteed a premium price for their produce: that’s provided they are producing beef of the quality required to meet this specific market,” he said.

Hannan pointed out that a fundamental overhaul of the beef production systems followed in Ireland will be required to make this happen.

“Native breeds must take centre stage,” he said.

“Only cattle of this type can produce the quality of beef and the carcass size that meet the requirements of Europe’s elite retailers and restaurateurs.

“Ireland is only a small player within the international beef sector. So it is both appropriate and feasible for the Irish beef industry to adopt a development plan for the future that is based on the production of high quality meat capable of securing a premium return throughout Europe,” he said.