Written Answers. - Beef Industry.

Brendan Smith


89 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development if he has satisfied himself that the framework is in place for the beef industry to develop on a planned basis and specifically to go forward in terms of breed improvement, value added processing and better marketing in order to build long-term business in export markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4702/00]

The overall strategy of the Government for the development of the beef sector is to ensure that its full potential is realised thereby maximising its contribution to the national and rural economy. The achievement of this involves action on a number of fronts.

At EU level, I am satisfied that the Agenda 2000 agreement, which provided for the retention of our existing suckler cow quota and a 7.5% increase in a national quota for the special beef premium as well as satisfactory compensation for the 20% reduction in institutional prices, has provided a stable environment for the development of the beef industry at primary production level for the next few years.

At national level, the recommendations of the task force on the beef industry, which I set up in November 1998, have provided a blue print for the development of the sector from primary production to marketing. I have established a monitoring committee under the aegis of Bord Bia to oversee implementation of a number of these recommendations. The other recommendations will be implemented by the relevant State agencies.
As far as cattle breeding is concerned, my Department provides information about appropriate breeding practices to farmers to meet the specific needs of the marketplace through the beef improvement programmes and the supervision of the beef carcase classification scheme. The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation, which deserves the full support of the industry, is working to devise specific breeding objectives for beef cattle production in Ireland and to review the breeding improvement measures already in operation here. In addition, Teagasc has made a valuable contribution in this area over a number of years and its booklet Breeding Better Quality Cattle from EU Markets, which was published recently, includes extremely useful information on best breeding practices for quality beef production. Through all these developments, I am satisfied that significant improvements targeted on specific market requirements can be achieved in cattle breeding and production. It is essential that the processing industry operates a pricing system which more effectively rewards quality beef production. This was recommended by the beef task force and its implementation is being examined by the monitoring committee.
With regard to value added processing, the Government already provides and will continue to provide grant-aid under the national development plan towards the capital investment related to the production of value added products.
Responsibility for the marketing of beef is a matter for the industry supported by Bord Bia. The Government's objective in this area is to refocus the marketing effort on the EU market to build sustainable markets which are less vulnerable to changes in the EU market support system. The promotion activities of Bord Bia are substantial but they need to be supplemented by an industry-funded campaign which is not subject to EU constraints on marketing of products on the basis of their country of origin. My Department will also consider what additional resources need to be provided to Bord Bia in light of the marketing fund agreed at industry level.