UPDATE: The latest developments in Tescos in retail labelling protocols on beef has been welcomed by the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) this afternoon, in particular the growing potential for Irish cattle and beef in the UK market.

Tescos last week indicated a change in its labelling protocols for beef sourced from Irish born and British sourced cattle.

 IFA National livestock chairman Henry Burns said the latest developments were very positive, particularly for price competition.

“There is major potential and opportunity for Irish exports into the UK where there is a large deficit of stock and prices are very strong.  The IFA recently met with marts and feeders in the UK and is also working with some ferry companies to improve access,” he said.

Following recent meetings with various auction mart owners and managers, and cattle feeders in the UK, the IFA livestock chairman said there was real potential for the Irish livestock sector to supply the needs of the UK cattle and beef sector.

He met a number of contacts and outlets in the UK that are very interested in pursuing the purchase of cattle from Ireland, a statement from the IFA this afternoon reads.

“There is a major shortage of both feeder cattle and beef in the UK. The beef price has now moved up to the equivalent of €5.00/kg and was one of the best beef prices in the world. The UK beef price is now top of the European league and this is a tremendous opportunity for Irish exporters,” he said.

The view in the UK is that cattle and beef prices will remain very buoyant throughout 2013. Supplies are set to remain very tight and demand for beef is very strong.

“The best way to ensure that processors do not undermine the very buoyant UK market is to maximise competition between the markets.

“The live export trade was up 82 per cent or over 50,000 head to date this year and a major breakthrough had been achieved with the resumption of the very important live export market to Libya. IFA had worked very hard to secure the reopening of the live trade to Libya.”

The IFA livestock leader said that there is major demand for both cattle and sheep in Libya and other North African markets at the moment and it is vital Irish farmers have shipping access to these markets. He said significant numbers are being supplied by other EU countries such as France, Spain, and Romania who are not restricted by transport.

“The Minister for Agriculture has made it clear that the regulations in relation to the approval of ships in Ireland are set higher than that which applies in the EU. Against this background, the minister has a major responsibility and must ensure that there are enough ships cleared by his department to sail out of Ireland and service the Irish livestock sector,” he added.

A strong and vibrant live export trade is absolutely essential for the €2bn Irish beef and livestock sector, particularly in terms of providing price competition and market outlets, Burns concluded.

Meanwhile, suppliers from across Ireland will benefit from closer relationships with Tescos thanks to the retailer’s Knowledge Hub initiative, which is celebrating the addition of its 1500th member this week.

Tesco’s Producer Network, a similar initiative for agricultural producers and suppliers, has expanded to 828 members and is now open to all 700 Tesco dairy farmers, and will be extended to other farming sectors over the summer.

Launched in 2010, the Tesco Knowledge Hub and the Tesco Producer Network are dedicated to forging closer relationships between the retailer and its international producers, farmers, growers and suppliers.

The 1500th member to join the Tesco Knowledge Hub comes from dairy firm Müller Wiseman Dairies, Britain’s biggest fresh milk firm and one of the Hub’s original company members.

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