The issue of the live export of cattle to the UK and the labelling constraints for British-fattened, Irish-born cattle was discussed in the Oireachtas last week.

In a parliamentary question asked by Deputy Denis Naughten on what measures are being taken to have this problem addressed, in written reply the Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney explained: “The potential to grow the live trade to Britain is constrained by the labelling system operated by retail chains in relation to cattle born in this country and exported live for finishing and processing in the UK.

“While Bord Bia has repeatedly raised this issue in its discussions with British retailers over the years, there are no indications that this policy dating from 1996 is likely to be soon reversed.

He continued: “As the Irish-born/UK-finished proposition is seen as difficult to communicate to consumers and likely to create unnecessary labelling complications, the retailers’ long-standing policy is to market British and Irish beef separately. This means that beef must be sourced from animals originating in one country, ie born, reared and slaughtered in the same country.

The minister said Bord Bia in its ongoing interactions with British customers will continue to pursue all opportunities, including through any change in labelling policies, to maximise the full potential of the beef and livestock trade with Ireland’s largest trading partner.

“Ireland’s trade with Britain, the highest-priced market in Europe, remains dominated by the beef trade accounting for some 50 per cent of our export volume and at around 250,000 tonnes is equivalent to 750,000 cattle with a high level of penetration in the multiple retail sector.”

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