Marts take beef factory complaints to Brussels

Competition directorate hears claims that factories controlling prices

A delegation of marts representatives and farmers has complained to the European Directorate for Competition that meat factories are subverting the free trade of livestock between North and South, and between this State and the UK.

The delegation also alleged that Irish meat factories were manipulating pricing and actively discriminating against livestock marts. The meat processors have condemned the allegations and said there was no basis to them.

The meeting was sought by Icos, the representative body for marts and co-ops. Its position was backed up by the Northern Ireland Livestock Auctioneers Association and IFA. Michael Spellman, chairman of Icos's marts committee said factories were trying to stifle the live trade by placing a stranglehold on live cattle sales in Ireland and Britain, and on a cross-Border basis.

Icos claimed there was an effective ban by Irish-owned meat plants in Northern Ireland and Britain on killing live cattle from the Republic.

According to Icos, the four Irish meat processors – ABP, Dunbia, Dawn and Kepak – account for 65 per cent of the total Irish cattle kill and about 45 per cent of the UK kill.

“Irish-controlled meat factories in Northern Ireland either will not slaughter an animal, or they will impose a £150 fine per animal, if any farmer presents an animal for slaughter that was born in the Republic of Ireland,” it said.

Ciarán Fitzgerald, chairman of Meat Industry Ireland said processors had no choice but to respond to market specifications and customer requirements.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times