PGI status for suckler beef ‘much better option’

Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for Irish beef needs to focus on the suckler side of the sector and not on the entire kill.

These were the sentiments expressed by a number of farm organisation leaders to AgriLand following the recent move by the Irish state to seek the status from the EU.

It’s being regarded as an ambitious move given the fact that the last time Ireland sought the status – 2009 – it was rejected.

However, farm leaders believe that the time has come for Irish suckler beef to be given the international quality brand “that it deserves”.

‘Mitigating Brexit damage’

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) livestock chairman Angus Woods said that while the status would provide Irish beef with limited protection under trading agreements “anything that promoted Irish beef” is a good thing.

We are continually looking for promotional work to be done on the beef from a suckler perspective and this does need to be established as a premium product.

Woods continued: “The reality is, though, that Brexit is going to be a defining moment for beef farming in this country for the next 50 years.

“If we lose full, free access to the UK market and that market becomes flooded with cheap American produce, no PGI status will mitigate that damage.”

‘The suckler’s future’

Meanwhile, Eddie Punch, general secretary of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) said there was a long beef history in Ireland that “undercut somebody else”.

“PGI products are considered sacrosanct by the EU so the question for Ireland is: Can all the beef produced here gain that status? That is what is problematic.”

Punch went on to say that it would be a “much better option” to become more selective about what should obtain the status.

“We should look for our suckler beef to come under PGI status; it is the most natural product and should be the focus of the effort. We need to find a niche market for the limited amount of that beef.

“It is crystal clear there is no future for the suckler in this country if it is going to be lumped in with everything else.”

‘Special status for beef’

Eamon Corley of the Beef Plan Movement said PGI status for suckler beef is “among a number of initiatives” that the movement had put forward at its meetings around the country in recent times.

“A brand for suckler beef is a good thing; it would mean a better price for the farmer and that it would be marketed as a world brand,” he said.

Corley went on to say that PGI status is something that the Beef Plan Movement wants and pointed out that the idea of separating the quality suckler beef and getting special status for it “is something that needs to be acknowledged”.

“Suckler beef is also more environmentally friendly and more carbon efficient,” concluded Corley.