Creed not going to jump on ‘populist’ beef import ‘bandwagon’

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has warned that, as a country with a beef sector primarily dependent on exports, Ireland “needs to be extremely careful” around the topic of imports into the country.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, the minister was quizzed by a number of TDs with concerns over beef imports coming into the country, including deputies Denis Naughten, Brian Stanley, Matt Carthy and Michael Healy-Rae.

Responding, Minister Creed said: “On imports, I know there is a populist element to this in saying that we should not bring in any beef. In an ideal world, we would not bring in any beef; we would eat our own beef and we would send it everywhere else to be eaten.

The National Farmers’ Union in the UK is kicking up about Irish beef on UK supermarket shelves.

“We export 90% of what we produce. We would be the biggest losers if there were to be a renationalisation.”

Commenting that he would love for there to be an Irish market for Irish beef – “while, at the same time, selling our beef everywhere else without any consequences” – he added:

“We need to be the most vigilant about renationalisation because we are very dependent on exports.

This issue is not something that I welcome but I am certainly not going to jump on a populist bandwagon because our primary interest is in making sure the European market works for us and we have access to those markets.

“If there were only an Irish market for Irish beef, we could have beef for breakfast, dinner and supper and we would still not eat all the beef we have.

“We need to make sure that we maintain access to markets in the UK, France and every other market within the EU. That is the most important thing for the beef farmers we represent.”

Stressing that Ireland exports to 180 different countries at present, the minister warned:

If we ban imports, those countries to which we export may well say they do not want our exports either. We need to be extremely careful.

“I have spoken to the commissioner about the issue of imports to see if there were legal instruments available to us in certain circumstances.

“I am advised there are not,” the minister concluded.