Minister says main farm organisations support ‘one’ cattle tag provider policy

The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said that farm organisations are supportive of the Department of Agricultures policy to only allow one supplier of cattle tags in Ireland.

Responding to questioning from Fianna Fail Agriculture Spokesperson Eamon O’Cuiv this week the Minister said the current contract for the supply of cattle tags, based on a sole approved supplier, will expire on 31 October 2016.

He said following consultation with stakeholders, the Department has made a policy decision to seek a single supplier for the provision of the service for the supply of bovine tags.

“The policy of seeking a single supplier has been endorsed by the main farming organisations (IFA and ICMSA) on the basis that a single supplier, selected on the basis of a competitive tender and benefitting from economies of scale, is likely to make bovine tags available to herd keepers at a competitive price,” he said.

However, he also said that the ICSA expressed a preference for multiple suppliers on the basis of the competition provided between tag suppliers.

Department’s view

According to the Minister the Departments view is that a single supplier is the optimum mechanism for ensuring that ear tags are made available to Irish farmers at a competitive price while at the same time meeting the identification requirements of the bovine sector in Ireland for superior quality bovine tags.

“Department places a strong reliance on tag suitability, security and tamper evidence to support a secure bovine identification and traceability system that plays a key role in underpinning beef and dairy exports in a competitive marketplace,” he said.

Tender

The Department will shortly be publishing a Request for Tenders (RFT) for the provision of a new contract for a three-year term that will commence on November 1, 2016.

It has confirmed that the RFT will seek a single supplier for the provision of a service to supply a suite of bovine tags including conventional tags, tissue tags (that provide for tissue sampling for BVD and DNA detection), electronic tags and electronic bolus.

The multi-million euro contract is currently provided by Mullinahone Co-op in Tipperary with over 2m new cattle tag sets ordered by farmers every year.

Quality of the tags

According to the Minister, in December 2015, my Department published a Market Sounding Exercise in line with public procurement legislation in advance of the publication of the RFT.

He said this notification provided the market with advance notice on the suite of bovine tags required by my Department and afforded interested parties with the opportunity of having feedback on tissue tags in advance of publication of the RFT.

The Minsiter confirmed no plastics expert was used to evaluate the plastics characteristics of tissue tags in the Market Soundings Exercise.

However, he said feedback was provided to all companies who participated in the Market Sounding Exercise.

“Feedback on the tags covered two very specific areas only, namely tissue sampling/testing efficacy and aspects of tag security which included an assessment carried out by a Veterinary Inspector in my Department’s Investigation Division with considerable experience of dealing with bovine ear tags.

“The assessment was done on a without prejudice basis to any future public procurement competition. It is open to any company to obtain independent expert advice on the findings communicated by my Department,” he said.