Calls to review ‘baffling’ refusal of immigrant investor meat export application in Offaly

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has been called on to “urgently review the baffling decision to refuse an application” from investors under the Immigrant Investor Programme, which confers residency rights.

The calls were made by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), which noted that the investors in question are planning to establish a beef exporting business in Banagher, Co. Offaly.

Such a business “would be of huge strategic benefit to the long-suffering beef farming sector”, the association stressed.

The project is being spearheaded by Banagher Chilling Ltd, and was subject to a proposed investment by Chinese partners when an application for planning permission was submitted last year.

Commenting on the decision, ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham said: “I am appalled that the committee took it on themselves to determine that getting a meat plant up and running, with a specific objective of building exports to Asia, was somehow contrary to government policy.

This is a totally unacceptable decision which undermines competition in a sector where farmers are utterly frustrated at the closed shop nature of beef processing. The committee has gone well beyond its remit in referring to government policy to rationalise beef processing.

“First, it should be recalled that the CCPC [Competition and Consumer Protection Commission] actually opposed the bids programme which was an orchestrated effort to reduce processing capacity in the beef sector,” he claimed.

“This plan was found to be contrary to EU Competition law by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 2008.

“It is therefore not only outrageous but actually wrong for an unaccountable committee tasked with allocating residency rights to make pronouncements on government policy when such pronouncements clearly are at odds with a decision of the ECJ,” Graham said.

Continuing, the chairman said: “In any event, the Immigrant Investor Programme does not set out any requirement that investments are to be scrutinised against subjective views of ever-changing government policy.

If there was provision to insist that only investments which align with government policy were to be considered, then surely the most up-to-date and relevant policy is that several ministers for agriculture have put major effort into opening up the market in China and other Asian countries for beef exports.

“It is a clear government policy to develop new beef export markets in light of the threat to the UK market posed by Brexit uncertainty.

“The reality is that the proposed investment has received planning approval from Offaly County Council.

“The investment is of the order of €40 million which is a multiple of the minimum required under the Immigrant Investor Programme and could lead to 150 permanent jobs in a region where job opportunities are very scarce.

Most importantly, farmers will be very angry if this investment is hindered in any way, given the desperate need for new markets and better demand for beef cattle.

“Ireland is a country which has rightly welcomed many immigrants in recent years, and it would be a spectacular own goal if some committee specifically chose to make immigrants with the ability to make a €40 million investment unwelcome.

“The ICSA is calling on Minister McEntee to deal with this urgently,” Graham concluded.

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