PGI application will be ‘final nail in the coffin of the suckler industry’ – Naughten

Addressing the new Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue in the Dáil last night (September 15), Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughten said the application for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for Irish grass-fed beef will be the “final nail in the coffin of the suckler industry” if it proceeds in its current draft.

He said PGI status is effectively a ‘Kerrygold type’ branding for Irish suckler beef which will be recognised throughout Europe and can then be effectively marketed as a premium product direct to consumers.

Deputy Naughten said: “Instead of ensuring that PGI status was sought for certified grass-fed and extensively reared Irish suckler beef, the current proposal is to shoehorn as much beef as possible into a PGI label which will put all the power back into the hands of processors.

The current defence of proposals which do not restrict PGI status to suckler beef are since Bord Bia has singularly failed to market Irish suckler beef to European customers.

“Bord Bia has never distinctly promoted suckler beef… Until we break that view then suckler farmers will never get a true price for their stock.

“While Minister McConalogue stated that he is committed to engaging with stakeholders, the difficulty is that the PGI application is the final opportunity to specifically support suckler farmers and if we fail to grasp it, then the industry will just collapse.”

In the Dáil, deputy Naughten said: “The minister said earlier that PGI status will not be a silver bullet. It will in fact be the final nail in the coffin if the current approaches continue to be taken to maximise the number of beef farmers eligible for PGI status.”

Minister McConalogue responded and said: “Coming from Inishowen in Donegal I know, no more than anyone else, that our suckler beef is tremendous. Our objective must be to ensure that our high-quality beef gets the best price possible and is marketed well abroad. This is important and is something that I have raised with Bord Bia in the past.”

Farm organisation objections to PGI

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) has said that this PGI application has failed to allocate sufficient weight to the need for using PGI status as a targeted intervention to deliver a premium price for suckler beef farmers.

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has also lodged a statement of opposition to the PGI application as these farmers see this grass-fed PGI as a “threat to their naturally reared product and as being driven by processors and the dairy industry”.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has previously said: “It runs the risk of creating more bureaucracy for farmers and it is unclear who will be the final arbiter on whether or not an animal qualifies.”