The project to establish a meat processing plant in Banagher, Co. Offaly, did not get the support it merited, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

Speaking following a meeting of the ICMSA Livestock Committee, chairman Des Morrison said that the unanimous view of the committee is that the relevant state agencies had not demonstrated sufficient support for the initiative to develop a beef slaughter export facility.

That needs to change – with a proactive approach adopted – the chairman stressed.

“It’s just a fact that farmers across Ireland are suffering from a lack of competition in the beef processing sector and a lack of investment by new entrants into the sector.

Like all sectors of the economy, new entrants into beef processing should be welcomed and supported, particularly in a rural area like Banagher, where we see the usual lack of employment opportunities compounded by the loss of peat harvesting in the area.

Set against challenges such as Brexit and Mercusor, Morrison said that Irish beef farmers are going to need a processing sector made up of operators that actively compete for cattle.

He said that that is “most certainly not the case at present with competition for cattle almost non-existent” and meat plants paying “more or less” the same price that does not return a profit for farmers.

“If a new group is willing to invest in a new processing facility to compete for Irish cattle then state agencies need to be proactive in supporting the investors – and the ICMSA is not convinced that this has happened in the Banagher case.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine should instruct his officials to bring all the relevant state agencies together and meet with the project promoters so that we can see the venture up and running subject to all the relevant statutory requirements.

Profitability from beef production remains extremely challenging and the development of the Banagher project would help in this regard, the chairman said.

“This would benefit beef farmers in the wider area and sector and also give a specific economic boost to the Banagher area that I’m sure local people would warmly welcome,” Morrison concluded.