The news that 14 additional beef factories have been approved for export to the Chinese market is welcome and only underlines the potential within our beef sector, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

However, commenting on the matter, ICMSA Livestock Committee chairman Des Morrison said that what should be an enthusiastic reception is relatively subdued because farmers “through bitter experience” are now used to the fact that expanding into new markets seemed to deliver little or no benefit to them.

Continuing, he said: “Obviously we welcome this – but the attitude and underwhelmed response of our members tells its own story.

They no longer accept that a new market – no matter how large – is necessarily a good thing.

“The reason for the scepticism is that we’ve been here before – where new markets are announced with a fanfare and expectations are raised that the farmers might get better prices.

“We all know, from bitter experience, that far too often that just hasn’t happened,” he said.

“All the new markets and trade fairs over the last few years have coincided with the relentless slide in farmer price and margin that has brought the beef sector to the sorry state it’s in today.

“The real test for these announcements comes when – or if – farmers see a rise in their price per kilo of beef,” Morrison added.

Unless and until we have the kind of meaningful talks and decisions that the Beef Taskforce had better be tasked with, then I’m afraid that the kind of shoulder-shrug that was the farmers’ response to this Chinese announcement will become more common.

“Farmers’ faith in these announcements has been lost in direct proportion to farmer margin on beef,” Morrison concluded.