MII highlights 4 ‘critical areas’ for safeguarding meat exports in 2021

A number of areas will be critical to ensure strong performance for Irish meat exports in 2021, according to Meat Industry Ireland (MII).

The Ibec association representing the meat processing sector was commenting following the publication of Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects report, which showed an increase of 2% in overall meat exports despite the major disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, the uncertainty of Brexit, and the loss of the Chinese market for beef exports.

The organisation said it “hopes that 2021 will bring more stable conditions and better prospects in certain key market outlets but there are a number of areas that are critical”.

These include four key points:
  1. Ongoing Covid-19 impact;
  2. Post-Brexit trade disruption;
  3. Exports to China;
  4. More resourcing of market access.

On the ongoing Covid impact, MII says that the restaurant and food service sector remain substantially shut down due to Covid lockdowns.

“This impacts on sales for all meat categories and results in fewer consumer purchase opportunities,” MII said in a statement.

“While retail business has and will continue to pick up some of this lost volume, the ongoing curtailment of food service is particularly challenging for higher value steak cut sales.”

Turning to the post-Brexit trade disruption point, the Ibec group highlighted that Irish meat exporters are “now coming to terms” with the new, more complex, and costly trading environment in the aftermath of Brexit.

Additional paperwork, customs and SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary] formalities, transport delays and disruption to delivery schedules are being experienced, even in the quieter days of early January.

“Exporters are using the increased direct ferry routes to access our European markets but more capacity on these routes is essential,” the representative body noted.

It added that the landbridge route will still be required to service customers but that the new bureaucracy of transit arrangements remains “challenging”.

Flexibility from competent authorities, pragmatic approach in the early months and further streamlining of processes will be needed, MII contends.

Regarding China, the meat processing body highlighted that the near eight-month suspension of Ireland’s beef exports to China is a “major loss to the entire beef sector in Ireland, just as sales to this exciting new market were set to ramp up”.

Government efforts to secure a resumption of this new business is critical. The impasse has been prolonged beyond reason and it is now time for the Taoiseach to engage with his counterpart in China in order to move the process forward quickly towards a resolution.

Finally, on the matter of more resourcing of market access, MII said that diversification of Irish meat exports into new markets is essential to the long-term sustainability and development of the sector.

“The diversification effort must be aided by increased government resourcing to support new market access,” the group contended.

“In most cases, securing market access is dependent on government-to-government interactions to agree certification conditions.

“Resourcing this area is not only about delivering on the target market priorities that we have in international markets, but we now face major new veterinary certification requirements for our trade with the UK from April 1, 2021,” MII concluded.