“There is no competition at the ringside from live exporters,” – that’s according to Jackie Cahill TD – Fianna Fáil.
He expressed his concern at the Oireachtas Joint Committee meeting on Agriculture, Food and the Marine when discussing the future of the beef sector in the context of Food Wise 2025.
“I asked a question in the Dáil two to three weeks ago, specifically focusing on targets for the last six months of the year as regards live exports, particularly cattle aged 6-months or over.”
“The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, refused point blank [saying] there weren’t any targets or figures being set for the last six months of the year.”
“I cannot understand that; I sat on a board for six years and when we got a new market, there was always a target for how much beef we wanted to get there.” he stressed.
Making reference to Ireland's family farm tradition and green image, he said: “Our factories are fattening a lot of their own cattle and the percentage seems to be growing and growing.”
“Again, to sell ourselves as producing this ‘green beef’ in a family farm tradition… how much can we stand over that now?”
For the year-to-date, overall, live exports have increased by 36%, Joe Burke – Senior Manager for Meat and Livestock at Bord Bia revealed at the meeting.
Figures show that 173,000 cattle have been exported up until the beginning of May.
Calf exports are running 33% ahead of the corresponding period last year, he outlined.
“As a result of this, calf exports are likely to reach record levels this year, in spite of the difficulties such as capacity issues in lairages in Cherbourg.”
“We are continuing to find opportunities for other categories of stock. Later on, in the year, the focus will move more to weanlings, heavier cattle and alternative markets.”
Opening the meeting, Tara McCarthy - CEO of Bord Bia - said it is “acutely aware of the difficulties being experienced by Irish beef farmers, particularly since last autumn”.
“Irish R3 steer prices were below the comparable European average male cattle prices for most of the past nine months, and have fallen by an average of 6% or 23 cent/kg for the year-to-date in comparison with the same period in 2018.”
“It should; however, be acknowledged in recent years that the improved market position of Irish beef has enabled cattle prices here to move closer to and exceed EU average producer prices.”
“Irish steer prices have exceeded the EU15 male cattle average in six of the last eight years.” she added.