A Meath TD has said that there is no economic reason the Equitable Beef Pricing Bill, proposed by Aontú cannot be passed, given the contribution of beef exports to the Irish economy.

Aontú Leader and Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín put a Parliamentary Question (PQ) to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlies McConalogue, requesting information regarding the amount contributed by the Irish beef sector to the Irish economy as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) between 2010 and 2020.

Deputy Tóibín said: “In the past decade, Irish beef exports have contributed nearly €24 billion to the Irish economy. Our beef and agri-produce is world renowned for its quality.

Budget 2021
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD

“The labours of our farmers are famous and are a key element of the marketing campaigns of supermarket multiples.

“Despite this economic contribution and the proud legacy of our farmers, beef farmers in 21st century Ireland still cannot get a price that covers the cost of production. We aren’t even discussing making a profit or a guaranteed profit margin, we are simply talking about farmers recovering the cost of production.”

Beef exports

The Aontú TD said that in 2020, despite the global pandemic, Irish beef was exported to more than 70 countries around the globe with a total value of €2.33 billion.

“The beef sector is also an economic linchpin for many rural economies, much more so than multinational companies,” the deputy said.

“As reported by the minister in his response, ‘the sector plays a key role in the wider rural and local economy with estimates of output multipliers of around 2.5 for beef production and 1.9 for food processing, compared to an average multiplier of 1.4 for the rest of the economy and 1.2 for foreign-owned firms ensuring that beef output produces a much wider return to the rural economy’.

“We can give tax breaks and low taxes to the likes of Google and Apple, but the government won’t reform the beef market to ensure that at least the cost of production is provided to our beef farmers. What does that say about the priorities of this government?” the deputy added.

Equitable Beef Pricing Bill

Deputy Tóibín said that the strength and value illustrated in Irish beef’s contribution to the economy “affirms that the passage of the Equitable Beef Pricing Bill is indeed feasible”, and that Fianna Fáil and other parties should deliver on their previous support for the legislation.

Aontú says the aim of the bill is to ensure the provision of an equitable price for beef to farmers operating in that sector and to abolish the 30-month rule concerning cattle. 

In his response to deputy Tóibín’s PQ, Minister McConalogue told the deputy that he is aware of the importance of the beef sector’s contribution to the economy.

He said that along with 78,000 beef farmers, the processing and preserving of meat and production of meat products employs over 19,000 people.

However the minister said that “while it is possible to calculate an overall GDP value for primary agriculture, fisheries and forestry, and for the food and beverage sector, the level of detail required to produce a reliable GDP value for the Irish beef sector is not available”.