One of the country’s top beef bosses, John Horgan, has warned that Ireland must fight to retain its existing markets within Europe.

Speaking at today’s Food Wise Conference 2017, the managing director of the Kepak Group said: “We shall not forget and we should insist that we maintain our existing markets.”

Horgan’s warning comes on the back of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and the potential challenges that may pose to the Irish agricultural sector.

On the strategy need, he said: “I suppose the strategy is different for each species when we are talking about meat.

“In the case of beef, lamb and pork, the new opportunities are very different. But, the most important focus that we should have is that we fight to retain our existing markets.

“For example, in the case of beef, for every 10 animals we slaughter in Ireland, nine are exported off the island. Of these, more than four are going into the UK and another four go to Continental Europe.

The main stay of our business is within Europe and there’s lots of growth opportunities within Europe before we ever go outside Europe.

Horgan added that the health benefits associated with Irish beef – given its grass-fed image – is a key driver of beef sales within our existing European markets.

“We have an abundance of grass-fed beef in this country and we should endeavor to grow our grass-fed beef production in Ireland in a sustainable way.”

Other key selling points mentioned by the Kepak chief include the use of genomics and carbon sequential policies.

By using such measures, he said, we will ensure that the product that we are producing is sustainable and that the best possible markets are available.

In our business, even though we slaughter animals, we don’t export animals or carcasses; we export cuts.

“For every carcass, there’s about 60 anatomical cuts that we export and the job in our business and industry is to find the best markets globally for each anatomical cut.

“We find that there’s a different value for each cut and nearly every cut has different specification requirements in different markets across the world.”

He continued: “Ireland needs to optimise its options in terms of market access to be able to best sustain our ties with Europe.

“The more successful we are at finding new markets, the better we will be able to defend our existing markets within Europe,” he said.