24 Irish beef processors want to send beef to China

There are 24 Irish beef plants with applications in with the Department of Agriculture looking to ship beef to China, Cormac Healy of Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has said.

Healy, the Director of Meat Industry Ireland (the representative body for the beef processing sector) spoke at the recent IFA ‘Beef Challenges 2017’ event where he gave the 300 farmers in attendance an insight into the Irish beef sector.

“It [approval to export beef to China] will be important in the future, there is no question about that. How soon it comes on stream, hopefully next year, will be a factor.”

However, despite the demand from Irish exporters to send beef to China, Ireland has still to receive full clearance to ship beef to the Asian nation.

Responding to a Parliamentary Question recently, the Minister of Agriculture Michael Creed said he is satisfied that Ireland is making steady progress on accessing the Chinese market with beef.

Irish beef exports increase 70% over the past 10 years

Healy also said that the volume of beef exported for Ireland has increased significantly in recent years.

“Over the past decade exports have increased, they have probably gone from €1.4 billion to €2.4 billion over that period – a 70% increase.”

He added there has been a significant improvement in beef price over the past decade, with prices improving from 290-300c/kg back in 2006 and 2009.

Back a decade ago we were trailing along behind the European price, it was probably somewhere in the region of 90% of the EU average price.

“In more recent years progress has been made. All prices did increase, European and Irish, but progress has been made in closing that gap with Europe.

“The price over a large part of this year was ahead of European average price, it is not where we are today or it is not where we want to be.”

The nature of processing and the type of product produced has also changed, he added, with more of emphasis now being applied to marketing Irish beef.

“Over the last decade, the industry itself, in terms of processing has changed.

“It has moved from one that was exporting frozen beef that was going to third countries, it was going with export refunds to international markets, to one that is now supply a lot of the top customers across Europe.

“A lot of work and investment has gone into that. We do have modern plants. It is an important asset in the country.

“A significant investment has taken place in trying to have the most modern and efficient plants to process beef in this country,” he said.

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Shared benefit from beef production

The Meat Industry Ireland Director also said that the Irish beef sector must deliver a shared benefit, at both farm and processing level.

He added that processors are aware that an additional 100,000 cattle are expected to come on stream in 2017.

“Some of the growth is from the dairy herd, and we know about this already, but it equally is about trying to maintain the suckler herd – a strategically important part of the beef sector.

Much of that growth has already taken place, it is already in the fields or in the sheds.

In the context of 2017, he said, processors have been working with customers and markets to try and make sure there is a market for these additional supplies.

But he did say there are a number of challenges facing the Irish beef sector in the year ahead, as fluctuations in exchange rate markets and additional beef supplies in the EU could have a negative affect.

“Our competitiveness in the UK market could be a challenge from that, because there is an ability for them to look elsewhere.

We saw some of that happening in August and September of this year when Sterling was probably at its worst point.

Healy also said that growth in EU beef production is also another negative, with EU beef production expected to increase by 1% during the coming year, while consumption is expected to decline by 0.5%.

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