EID: Marts call out department on ‘discriminatory’ measures

The introduction of new measures for sheep electronic identification (EID) tagging has sparked an angry reaction from the Irish marts representative body.

Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) national marts executive Ray Doyle described the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s decision as scoring “an own goal for Ireland through the introduction of new mandatory electronic tagging measures for sheep”.

He added that such measures are “far in excess of what is actually required by EU legislation”.

Astonishingly, the measures will serve to reduce competition in the livestock sector where marts are being saddled with increasing levels of red tape but the meat factories have an easier pathway carved out for them to underpin their existing dominant market practices.

From June 2019, all sheep moving off a farm must be electronically tagged.

One tag vs. two tags

At the centre of ICOS’ complaint is the stipulation that lambs going direct to slaughter (from farm to factory) will require just one electronic tag while all other sheep will require an EID tag set of two tags – including those sold through marts, which are currently the only stimulus of real competition in the Irish livestock market.

A single tag fulfils the same function as two, the ICOS executive contended.

EU legislation clearly states that sheep can have a single electronic tag when intended for slaughter – regardless of whether that is direct from farm to factory, or through a livestock mart, he said.

“The requirement for two tags is represented by the department as an extra quality and traceability assurance measure, which ICOS contests is unnecessary as it means duplication of documentation, increased labour and a near doubling of costs for sheep farmers,” said Doyle.

“The department argues that this will support access to new markets but there is no particular business case that supports this assertion.

The actual additional costs which will be incurred on sheep farmers is well north of €2 million through these measures.

Doyle pointed out that the irony is that ICOS absolutely supports and welcomes EID for all sheep movements.

Irony

The marts representative said: “EID enhances flock management where it allows for more efficient animal recording and more streamlined sale and movement between farms, marts and processors.”

He added that, more importantly, it ensures differentiation, competitiveness and consumer appeal for Irish sheep meat exports on international markets where traceability and quality must be continually assured.

“However, we disagree vehemently with the department on the discriminatory manner in which it has now introduced the new measures.

“In fairness, it consulted extensively with the livestock sector and we made several submissions. But it has to be realised that we are coming at the issue from the coalface of co-operative livestock farming.

Our marts serve as the lifeblood of free trade among farmers and communities all over Ireland and they are a stimulus to competition for the benefit of producers where, if it was left to the factories, a monopoly situation would exist.

“The fact that animals going direct to slaughter will require just one electronic tag while all others will require an EID tag set is a disincentive from both a labour and financial perspective for farmers to trade factory-fit lambs through marts.

“It is an astonishing anomaly. A sheep traded through a mart is the same sheep as one going direct to the factory whether it has one or two tags.

Triple documentation for marts

ICOS welcomed the financial aid package introduced by the department to support marts in becoming central points of recording; however, it was critical of the increased paper trail required by the Department.

Doyle explained: “In this modern age of technology, we called for a more simplified recording procedure for sheep going through the marts (acting as Central Points of Recording for the AIM animal monitoring system).

“Instead we see bundles of extra, manual paperwork.

The system specified by the department requires factories to hold just one copy of the relevant recording documentation, but marts must manage triplicate copies – one each for buyer, seller and mart.

“A simple copying of the sheet from seller’s authorised and registered despatch book would instead be sufficient,” Doyle concluded.