IFA President Eddie Downey said solutions to the roadblocks on the live trade to Northern Ireland have been presented to Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, and there is an onus on him to grasp the opportunity before the autumn store cattle sales. He said, “Minister Coveney must deliver an immediate solution now”.
Eddie Downey said IFA has been working with meat processors in Northern Ireland who want the live trade opened up. “They are prepared to slaughter cattle from the Republic of Ireland provided the necessary branding and labelling arrangements are resolved. Branding and labelling options have been presented to the Department of Agriculture and it is essential that Minister Coveney supports these proposals, which in turn would offer a solution on the live trade issue”.
Mr Downey said Minister Coveney has written to the main UK retailers strongly encouraging them to adopt a more flexible approach on their policy of insisting on beef from animals born, reared and slaughtered in one country only. He said “Minister Coveney must insist that the UK retailers adopt the flexibilities contained in the EU labelling regulations which allow for cattle born in Ireland, reared in the UK and slaughtered in the UK to be sold in their outlets, similar to what happens in Italy, Spain and other EU member states”.
The IFA President said the urgency around this issue cannot be over emphasised. He demanded that Minister Coveney immediately prioritise this issue in order to deliver a solution before the autumn cattle trade picks up at the livestock marts where Northern Ireland buyers play a very significant role. He said cattle numbers have tightened in the North and sterling has moved positively from 85p to 79p to the €uro, making Irish store cattle very attractive.
Eddie Downey said the meeting between Minister Coveney and his Northern Irish counterpart Michelle O’Neill in Dublin last week was helpful. He said, “Both Ministers agreed that in the case of meat from animals exported live from the Republic for slaughter in Northern Ireland, there is a strong case to be made for marketing it in Britain on an equal footing with beef born reared and slaughtered in the Republic. They agreed to make a joint approach to UK retailers on this matter with a view to finding solutions”.