The issue of nomad cattle is a commercial one and can only be resolved by the commercial stakeholders, according to to the General Secretary of the Department of Agriculture Tom Moran.

Currently ‘nomad cattle’, or cattle from the South for sale in the Northern Ireland, can be sold directly to abattoirs in the North but a price penalty is being applied, because some customer specifications do not allow for the cattle to have spent time in more than one jurisdiction.

Speaking in the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture this week, Moran said: “It’s a commercial issue to be quite honest with you, that would be my own view. The resolution of it is a commercial issue as well.

“It’s a purchasing policy by processors in the North as to what cattle they want to buy as a result of labelling requirements that are imposed on them by the market in which they sell.”

He added: “Ultimately the resolution of that is by the purchasing policy of the retailer in the UK. This is a commercial choice made, not by Governments.”

Moran outlined that legally processors must include on the beef where the animal was born, reared and slaughtered. He said: “If it’s different countries it gets complicated.”

“The Minister has raised this with his counterpart in the North. To see if something could be done.”

Moran also said that: “An All Island label is something we could look at. But we would still have to adhere to the EU policy of the tree stages born, reared and slaughtered.

“Ultimately the purchaser has to decide whether to agree to that.”