I propose to take Questions Nos. 988 to 990, inclusive, together.
There is no rule limiting the age of cattle or the number of movements for beef production. However, in-spec bonus payments are made in respect of cattle which meet certain market specifications demanded by retail customers. The 30-month age, four movement specification and 60-day residency to which you refer are all examples of this.
Such specifications are entirely a commercial matter and are not conditions imposed by my Department. It should be noted however that certain third countries have imposed a 30 month age limit in respect of beef imports, and this will be specified in the veterinary health certificate which will accompany beef exports to those countries.
As regards the question on numbers of movements, birth registrations are not classified on the Department's AIM system as a movement. For example, when an animal moves from its herd of origin to another farm, it enters its second residency, but has only made one movement.
In September 2019, consensus was reached between stakeholders on the Irish Beef Sector Agreement. Two elements of this relate to the specifications cited:
- the introduction of a new bonus of 8c/kg for steers and heifers aged between 30 to 36 months, which meet all non-age related existing in-spec criteria, and which up to now have not received any bonus;
- an independent review of market and customer requirements, specifically in relation to the four in-spec bonus criteria currently in operation in the Irish beef sector.
The details of this agreement are publicly available on my Department’s website.
Grant Thornton was successful in tendering for the transparency studies including the review of market and customer requirements, specifically in relation to the in-spec bonus criteria currently in operation in the Irish beef sector.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused some initial delays to progress on these studies. Grant Thorntons was unable to have the necessary engagement with retail customers, both domestically and in key export markets for Irish beef, as retailers were understandably preoccupied with ensuring the continuation of their supply chains. However, this work is expected to be concluded soon.