‘No silver bullet for Irish beef industry but China could help’

There is no silver bullet to turn around the fortunes of Irish beef farmers but the opening of the Chinese market could help, the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has said.

Irish beef farmers have been caught in the middle of a perfect storm, he said, with additional cattle supplies and increased cow cullings on the back of difficulties in the dairy industry adding to the downward pressure on farmgate beef prices.

Minister Creed spoke at the SIAL international food fair, where he said the Irish industry is currently awaiting clearance for the Chinese authorities to ship beef to the Asian nation.

“We met the last major hurdle that we had to clear in China which is AQSIQ, this is their equivalent of our veterinary certification process.

“We think we have made a very strong case to them that we meet the highest food safety and traceability standards,” he said.

He added that getting clearance to ship beef to China would present Irish beef processors with a very significant market opportunity.

Our current exports to China across all of the food industries are valued at €650m, if we can open that up to beef we can do a lot of business there.

“It is a very significant opportunity because the cuts there is demand for in the Chinese market would be the cuts that command lower prices in other markets,” he said.

The Cork native also said competition is needed in the Irish beef industry.

We need competition, we need new markets and we need an appropriate mix between live exports and the meat plants.

“And in that context I will be heading to North Africa in the coming weeks, to Morocco and Algeria, looking for live export opportunities.

“I think the Turkish market has given us some relief in what has been a very difficult trading market recently,” he said.