25 Meith 2019, 13.00

The Joint Committee on Agriculture Food and the Marine launched a report today, Tuesday 25 June making a series of recommendations to protect the future of the Irish beef sector.

Getting an EU quality mark for Irish suckler beef, is among a series of proposals in the report, to secure the beef sector’s future as a key player in the Irish agri-food industry’s predicted export growth.

The report, The Future of the Beef Sector in the context of Food Wise 2025 looks at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and potential threats to the Irish beef industry.

It identifies Brexit, Climate Action measures, Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform and the prospective EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement as potential threats to the beef sector.

Chairman of the Committee, Pat Deering TD said while there are no “silver bullet” solutions to the issues facing the beef sector, the report’s recommendations will assist in “empowering producers” and help “ensure they are in a position to extract a fairer price from the high-quality products they produce.”

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s  ten year, Food Wise 2025 plan, predicted significant export growth for the Irish agri-food industry over a ten year period, with the beef sector playing a key role in that growth.

It predicted an 85 per cent increase in Irish agri-food exports to €19 billion by 2025 with the beef sector playing a key role in that growth.  Deputy Deering said the Committee believes it was necessary to review the progress of Food Wise 2025 to date, given that the strategy has nearly reached its mid-point.

It focused on the beef sector in the context of Food Wise 2025 as it appears that this sector is “under increasing pressure.”  Deputy Deering said there is “real concern with regard to the levels of profitability of primary producers in the beef sector.”

The report makes twelve recommendations in total. It calls for the exclusion of beef products in the EU’s Free Trade Agreement with the founding members of the Mercosur; Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Deputy Deering said: “ The prospective EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement may have unintended consequences, one such being that cheaper and less carbon efficient beef from South America will come onto to the EU market. This, in effect will undercut Irish beef prices while also undermining progress towards meeting the EU’s climate change obligations.”

The Committee recommends that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine seeks Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) – an EU quality stamp -  for Irish suckler beef as a priority,  to help market it more effectively.

The report proposes that live exporters set up an association to represent their interests. It calls on the Department of Agriculture to engage on a cross-departmental level with the farming, environmental and scientific communities to develop a plan for the agricultural sector to align it with meeting Ireland’s Paris Agreement commitment.

Deputy Deering Deering said: “Ireland has been underperforming in its efforts to combat climate change, and the agricultural sector undoubtedly has its part to play in this regard. The evidence provided to the Committee indicates that stakeholders in the beef sector are willing to play their part, but the Committee believes that a much more detailed discussion between all stakeholders needs to take place.”

The report also recommends that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine:

  • Undertakes a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) in consultation with relevant stakeholders about the implementation of the Unfair trading Practices Directive.
  • Pursues the establishment of a more detailed Meat Market Observatory at EU level.
  • Establishes a dedicated section with the Department specialising in the live export trade.
  • Facilitates a review of the Quality Payment System (QPS) and associated grading practices.
  • Review feedlots to establish their potential adverse impact on the beef sector.
  • Directs funding to research to improve sexed semen techniques
  • Endeavours to ensure that the concerns of all stakeholders are considered in the formulation of Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan.

Deputy Deering said in an environment where funding from the CAP can make up to 114% of a beef farmer’s salary, the CAP reform will undoubtedly have an impact on the beef sector.

“The Committee notes that negotiation on the next Multiannual Framework and the next CAP are currently ongoing, and so it is difficult to determine the levels of funding which will result from those negotiations. On this basis, the Committee looks forward to the publication of Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan.

The Committee received 25 stakeholder submissions, and heard from 16 stakeholder organisations, over seven days of hearings as part of its investigations for the report.

View a full copy of the report here.

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Committee membership

Teachtaí

Fianna Fáil

Pat Deering - Cathaoirleach

Fine Gael

Sinn Féin

Labour Party

Independent

Seanadóirí

Fianna Fáil

Fine Gael