IFA calls for action on competition in beef sector
Coveney urged to take step in after ABP’s plan to buy stake in Slaney
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney: The IFA wants the Government to make a submission to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission through the Minister on the importance of guaranteeing competition in processing and rendering. Photograph: Gary O’Neill
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has urged Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to address the lack of competition in the beef sector, which it says will be compounded by ABP Group’s plan to acquire a 50 per cent stake in Slaney Foods.
IFA national livestock boss Henry Burns said farmers had “real fears” around the lack of competition and dominance in beef processing as well as rendering with the proposed sale of the Allen family’s 50 per cent stake in Slaney to ABP.
This investment would give ABP effective control of up to 28 per cent of the beef kill and three of the six rendering plants in the country, he said.
While the investment will be subject to clearance by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), Mr Burns said the IFA wanted the Government to make a submission to the CCPC through the Minister for Agriculture on the importance of guaranteeing competition in processing and rendering for farmers.
“At the most recent Beef Forum meeting chaired by the Minister, Bord Bia confirmed that the average Irish/UK price gap for 2015 has widened to 82cent per kilogram or €293 per head,” he said.
Separately, Mr Coveney has said he expects Ireland’s beef export licence with the US to be widened to include mince in the first quarter of this year.
Only about 2,000 tonnes of beef, which is worth about €12 million, has been exported to the US since the lifting of its long-standing trade embargo early last year, well short of the Government’s €100 million target.
“I would be hopeful that it might be able to happen in the first quarter of this year, “ Mr Coveney said, while acknowledging differences in hygiene protocols surrounding E.coli still needed to be bridged.
Ireland remains the only EU state granted access to the US market since the BSE-inspired embargo of the 1990s.
The current deal between Dublin and Washington is only for high-value steak cuts, such as fillet, rib-eye and sirloin. Premium beef imports, however, represent only a small part of the overall US beef market, as most upmarket traders source prime cuts locally.