I am satisfied that there is significant potential for the Irish beef sector to add value all along the supply chain.
I recognise that 2018 has been a difficult year for many beef farmers, with higher input costs due to the unprecedented weather events, and prices under pressure towards the back end of the year. At the last meeting of the Beef Roundtable on 3rd October I highlighted the need for stakeholders to recognise their inter-dependency. I urged processors to engage positively with their farmer suppliers to build the sustainability of the sector as a whole and to ensure a reasonable return for the farmers upon whom the sector relies for its development. It is essential that the position of the primary producer in the supply chain be improved if the industry is to build a sector for the future.
Global demand for beef is expected to rise by 1.9% this year, with China and east Asia once again being the main drivers of this trend. Irish beef exports grew by 5% in 2017 to reach a value of €2.5 billion, and live exports increased by approximately 30%, giving beef farmers a vital alternative market outlet. These are positive developments for Ireland as a beef exporting country, which remains the fifth largest net exporter of beef in the world and the largest exporter of beef in the EU, and should provide ongoing opportunities for the development of the sector domestically and for growth in Irish exports both within the EU and to third countries.
Securing new market access and enhancing existing Irish beef access has been a particular priority for many of the trade missions in 2017 and 2018. The opening of the Chinese market for Irish beef earlier this year was the culmination of significant work, over a number of years. Other notable achievements this year were agreements with Qatar and Kuwait which allowed for the importation of Irish beef. Against the backdrop of EU-agreed trade deals such as those completed with Canada, Japan and Mexico, my Department continues to prioritise efforts to gain market access to new third country markets and, equally importantly, to deepen existing markets for Irish beef products.