The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has cited quality and price as the reason why there is only one supplier of cattle tags in Ireland.

The Minister was responding to a question this week from Éamon Ó Cuív as to the reason behind the policy, when there are 13 approved suppliers of sheep tags.

Ó Cuív stated that a multiplicity of approved suppliers would ensure competition in the marketplace for price and quality service.

Currently, a conventional and tissue sampling tag set costs €2.70 from Mullinahone Co-op. Electronic sheep tags currently cost in the region of €1.40 per set depending on supplier.

Minister Coveney said: “The restriction of the supply of bovine tags to a single supplier is designed to ensure that farmers obtain the best tag from a technical and price perspective. The farming organisations have expressed a preference for this approach on the basis that it ensures that ear tags can be made available at a more competitive price by a single supplier benefiting from economies of scale.”

He said: “Competition as between the various potential suppliers is ensured through public procurement competitions which are held by my Department on a regular basis to source a contractor for the supply of bovine tags. Tag supply companies are invited to submit a tender application as part of this process.

“The holding of competitions for the supply of bovine tags on a regular basis ensures the Department’s evolving requirements can be met in a manner that is consistent with ensuring high technical standards in a competitive framework whilst availing of quality products consistent with best available technology and value for money.”

The Minister outlined that the current contractual arrangements provide for a two year tenure from November 1, 2012, with the option of two extensions of one year durations. The intention is to continue with a public procurement competition for the supply of bovine tags from a single supplier into the future, he said.