EU agrees schemes to remove surplus beef

 

The EU's beef management committee has agreed two schemes to take surplus beef off the market, an intervention scheme and a destruction scheme for animals over 30 months which have not been tested for BSE.

The announcement did not appear to have convinced the Egyptian authorities to lift their temporary ban on Irish beef. It said yesterday it would not accept beef from Ireland from next Friday.

This has effectively closed the £200 million a year market, which is already creating difficulties for the Irish meat export plants, which were said last night to be holding stocks worth more than £100 million.

The beef intervention scheme agreed yesterday will come into force next Tuesday and while the rules have been changed to allow in animals up to 430 kgs and lower grade animals, neither the meat plants nor the farmers are happy with it.

The test or destruct scheme for animals of more than 30 months was also agreed and animals will be paid for at a rate determined by prices being paid for cattle in the Republic over the past four weeks.

The Irish Farmers' Association president, Mr Tom Parlon, said both schemes discriminated heavily against Irish livestock farmers. They would lose out on both, he said.

The intervention scheme, he said, would not go anywhere near delivering a price of 90p a lb for cattle. This was the minimum viable price. The test or destruct scheme would deliver Irish farmers a price of £190 a head less than French farmers.

The Minister for Agriculture Food and Rural Development, Mr Walsh, said the intervention scheme rule changes would particularly suit Ireland and provide a support for the majority of cattle in terms of grade and weight.

On the test or destruct scheme, he said, that while there would have to be some reservations about operating a scheme like it, once put in place it would contribute to the restoration of consumer confidence in beef and would be important as a support mechanism for the market.

The scale of the problem facing the State emerged last night when it was learned that of the two million animals slaughtered last year, 1,178,000 of them were more than 30 months old.

It was also estimated that in the first six months of next year when it would be expected that up to 1.6 million animals will be slaughtered, 60 per cent of these, will have to be tested for BSE or slaughtered for destruction.

Europe will pay 70 per cent of the intervention and slaughter schemes but national funding will have to be provided for the storage and disposal of the rendered animals and this will be costly.

Mr John Smith of the Irish Meat Association, representing the meat plants, said that many details about the two schemes had yet to be clarified because much had been left to the national governments to decide.