Tuesday, 1 July 2014
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
365. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the initiative he is taking with his counterpart in Northern Ireland to develop the live export of cattle in Northern Ireland and the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28483/14]
My Department attaches considerable importance to the live export trade and, over the years, has been very active in facilitating shipments abroad. Live exports serve a dual purpose as a means of satisfying market demands for live animals and providing alternative market outlets for farmers. Total live exports to date this year are over 154,000 head of which 26,000 went to the UK, an increase of some 2,400 head or 10% up on the comparable period in 2013. Of this 26,000, some 19,100 went to Northern Ireland, which is an increase of 3% on the same period in 2013.
However, the potential to grow the live trade to the UK even further is constrained by the buying specifications operated by the British retail chains in relation to cattle born in this country and exported live for finishing and processing in that market. The retailers’ longstanding policy is to market British and Irish beef separately. This means that beef must be sourced from animals originating in one country; i.e. born, reared and slaughtered in the same country. In addition, logistical difficulties arise when a small number of Irish-born animals are slaughtered in a UK meat plant. Under mandatory EU labelling rules, these carcases have to be deboned in a separate batch, packaged and labelled accordingly, thereby incurring additional costs for the processor. This therefore decreases the attractiveness of animals born or reared in the Republic.
While Bord Bia has repeatedly raised this issue with British retailers over the years, they are unlikely to reverse their marketing policy in the short term. Nevertheless Bord Bia will continue to pursue all opportunities to maximise the full potential of the beef and livestock trade with our largest trading partner. In addition, Bord Bia actively supports the development of the live export trade through the provision of market information, developing market access and promotional activity.
I hosted two roundtable discussions with key stakeholders in the beef sector on 17 April and 3 June, at which these matters were discussed. Both I and Minister of State Tom Hayes T.D. have also had discussions with my Northern counterpart, Ms Michelle O’Neill, on these issues and I will continue to engage with her on them, to the benefit of producers on both sides of the border. In addition I expect that these issues will be discussed at the next agriculture sectoral meeting of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) in September.