‘We are doing damage to ourselves…customers have gone elsewhere’ – MII

Damage is being caused to the Irish fresh meat market and customers have gone elsewhere, while contracts have been lost, according to Meat Industry Ireland’s (MII) senior director Cormac Healy.

Speaking about the impasse in the beef sector on RTE’s Today with Séan O’Rourke this morning, Tuesday, September 17, Healy said that, when processing returns to normal, a “Trojan effort” will have to be made “to win customers back”.

Healy’s comments came in the aftermath of a plea to farmers on the picket lines – in an open letter – by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to end the protests and “take responsibility” for the future of the sector.

‘Challenging EU markets’

Healy, meanwhile, pointed to challenging EU markets and the pressure on Ireland to maintain its “reputation” in the beef trade.

We export 90% of what we produce and are dependent on what is happening across a range of markets.

Healy continued: “We have had a challenging EU market environment over the last number of months.

“It has given rise to price falls – not just in Ireland – but our main market, the UK, is back by 12% on this time last year.

“Ireland is back 10%, so it is an issue that is in the market at the moment.”

Customers have been lost

He went on to say that it was necessary to highlight the fact that when the market is there the “price is paid”.

We have built up a good customer base and a good reputation.

Healy added: “Producers produce a good product and we have a good Irish beef product but we are now heading into the third week in this current phase of protests and our customers have not been supplied.

“I am aware of contracts that have been lost and individual members have told us that customers have had to make decisions based on the fresh meat market.

“Hopefully we will win them back; there are years of business and relationships there, but it is a fresh meat business and if customers that we have – be they retailer or food service, etc – need the product they will source it elsewhere, and that has happened.

Also Read: ‘An open letter to farmer protesters’ from Minister Michael Creed

“The danger is that the longer this situation goes on the more difficult everything becomes.

“And when we do get back we will be faced with less customers available to us and having to win customers back.”

Kill has fallen by two-thirds

Meanwhile, kill has fallen by two-thirds as a direct result of the protests.

“It was down to below 12,000 last week – as we face into this week Ireland is looking at even less than that being done,” concluded Healy.