‘Irish beef processors must gain a foothold in China now’

The decision by China to ban Brazilian beef imports is an opportunity for Irish meat companies to do real business in that country, according to ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch.

“It really is now or never for Ireland in this regard,” he explained.

“We have been hearing for so long about the growing middle classes in China wanting to eat more red meat. So with Brazil out of that market, surely this target grouping would be happy to pay that little bit more for high-quality Irish beef.

“And the same principle holds in those other countries that have banned imports over recent days.

Ireland has had numerous trade missions in all of the countries that have banned Brazilian meat over recent days. But Irish meat processers must take the initiative and seize the opportunity that now exists in these markets.

Punch believes that the absence of Brazilian beef from a number of key international markets will lead to a general tightening of cattle prices.

“This is a view also held by leading representatives within the French beef industry,” he added.

The ICSA representative said that the EU must now act to ban all meat imports from Brazil.

“Up to a point, Brussels has turned a blind eye to a number of discrepancies previously identified in Brazilian meat imports, where food standards are concerned.

“But we now have clear evidence that both meat processing companies and government officials in Brazil are not meeting the professional requirements expected of them.

“And, under these circumstances, the EU has no option but to ban all meat imports from the country.”

Punch also believes that the EU should withdraw from the agricultural chapter of the current Mercosur trade negotiations with immediate effect.

“What I find astounding is the fact that the EU negotiating team in South America for these talks found out about Brazil’s rotten meat scandal through the media. At the very least, one would have expected the Brazilian representatives attending the negotiations to brief their EU counterparts immediately.”