In the aftermath of the UK decision to leave the EU, the text books tell us we need to see the opportunity to reduce our dependence on a single export market and develop alternatives. Good enough theory, not quite as simple when your closest market is also the highest-value option. After the UK, France is our biggest export destination and the Netherlands comes next, importing up to 40,000t of Irish beef each year and considerably more if we include Northern Ireland sales.
Dutch R3 young bull beef is 59c/kg behind Irish R3 steers and Dutch consumers spend just over €18 on a basket of groceries that would cost over €22 in Ireland. That suggests it is a low-value market that it wouldn’t make economic sense for Irish beef exporters to supply, yet the opposite is the position. Irish prime beef is valued in the Netherlands because it strikes the balance between high quality and affordability. Even though the Dutch are price-conscious, with strong focus on value, they have equal focus on quality and Ireland hits the spot. In Bord Bia market surveys show Irish beef is regarded as higher quality and worth more than Dutch by most consumers.