‘Saudi Arabia trade deal must be judged on its effect on beef prices’

The enhanced trade deal with Saudi Arabia must be judged on its effect on beef prices, according to ICMSA’s Michael Guinan.

The news that Irish beef is to be granted enhanced access to the Saudi Arabian markets represented a considerable achievement for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, and his officials, he said.

But Guinan, Chairperson of ICMSA’s Livestock Committee, believes farmers will judge this deal by the effect it has on the prices they receive for their cattle.

There is very little point in the Government achieving enhanced status for Irish beef exports if the factories are going to hog the better margins available, he said.

“There’s a long list of reasons why Irish farmers are so dissatisfied with their returns from beef at present and most of these reasons centre on the Quality-Based Pricing grid, which has repeatedly been shown to discriminate against farmers in general, and animals from the dairy herd in particular.

ICMSA will always recognise good marketing and progress on securing trade concessions, but we’re surely entitled to wonder why these agreements seem so slow in working their way through to the price farmers receive for their cattle.

The ICMSA will continue to lobby for changes to the system, so that it recognises that it’s the farmers, and their work in producing the beef, who are the foundation stone for the whole multi-billion euro Irish beef sector, Guinan said.

It is high time that the distribution of margins within the beef supply-chain reflected that fact, he added.

Meanwhile, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association Beef Chairman Edmond Phelan has also welcomed the enhanced trade with Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Arabian market is now open for minced, processed, cooked and bone-in beef from Ireland, he said.

With extra cattle around, news of this nature is always welcome. Of course, the real value of this market to the producer will depend on the price they achieve.

Separately, Phelan welcomed reports that Purcell Livestock Exporters are to step up their activities in the Irish market for live shipping, having tendered to ship up to 47,000 live cattle to Turkey this year.

“This is a recognition that the live trade is picking up at long last and it shows just how important securing markets of this kind is.

Minister Creed must now take every opportunity to capitalise on other markets with great potential, such as Algeria, Egypt and Iran.

“Critically, these markets are outside the EU, where we know beef consumption is rising,” Phelan said.