The application for a protected geographical indication (PGI) for Irish Grass Fed Beef has gotten the go-ahead after a number of late-night meetings between farm organisations and the Department of Agriculture this week.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said: “If approved, this PGI status has the potential to improve the market positioning of Irish beef at a time when it is most badly needed.
“It has the potential to enable Ireland’s beef offering to be strongly positioned in terms of our unique quality, grass-fed product specifically called out as Irish, and benefiting principally the primary producer.”
Clarifications that arose from the discussions:
Bord Bia has committed €6m in funding to promote a suckler beef brand over the next three years, with funding subject to an annual review of progress.
The monitoring group will oversee this review and assess progress in relation to the creation of market demand by differentiating Irish suckler beef and the ability of the brand to deliver improved returns.
Minister will raise issues
Minister McConalogue said he will be raising two issues with the European Commission in submitting the final application.
“I will be making the point that grass-fed young bulls should be included, when further data on this cohort is available to support this.
“Reflecting discussions with my counterpart in Northern Ireland, I will raise that Ireland would support the PGI being extended on an all-island basis, when a grass-fed verification system is in place in Northern Ireland.”
It's understood that the application will be finalised within the next week and submitted to the European Commission, which, when assessed, will go through a consultation process.
It will be spring 2021 before farmers will know if the application is successful or not.
IFA president Tim Cullinan
“It is clear that something substantial needs to be done to promote suckler beef as a specialised product.
"In addition to the funding of €6m which was agreed today, the importance of building on the existing schemes to support suckler production and underpin the development of the brand was acknowledged by the Minister and the taskforce.
“Assessments for the meat and fat colour will only be carried out as part of the standard Bord Bia audit at factories and will not impact on the price paid to farmers for their grass-fed product.
“We have been in regular contact with our colleagues in the UFU [Ulster Farmers Union] and it is important that we don’t create any unintended barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and ourselves.”
IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden
“This is a good outcome. The PGI will give us a chance to promote the world-renowned qualities of Irish beef.
“It also allows us [the] opportunity to work on a brand for beef from suckler farms that promotes the quality, environmental and socio-economic benefits of this production system.”
ICSA president Edmond Phelan
“While [the] ICSA would have preferred an exclusively suckler-based PGI, the development of a suckler premium brand is now a real possibility with the backing of €6m State funding.
“We fought very hard to ensure that the PGI committee can control the use of the PGI logo so that if it doesn’t deliver for farmers, it will have to be brought back to the drawing board.
“We insisted that the monitoring committee would have power to tackle abuses of the PGI and ensure that the added value is returned fairly to the farmer.
“Too often, the beef sector has been seen as a vehicle to help Irish export figures or to enrich others along the supply chain.
“[The] ICSA had also argued that the level of funding for the suckler brand would indicate whether we were serious or not. The final proposal to double the previous offer to €6m is progress and we welcome that.
“Today has also seen an acknowledgement that farmers need to have a majority in terms of the controlling committees, and this has been achieved.”
INHFA president Colm O’Donnell
“Delivering funding of up to €6m to develop a suckler brand is the first time that the progeny of the 900,000-plus suckler cows will be differentiated in the marketplace and presented to the customer as a premium beef product.
“The profitability of the suckler cow has been a real cause of concern for the thousands of farmers whose land type leaves them with little farming alternatives. Following yesterday’s task force meeting, there is for the first time a glimmer of hope for these farming families.
“Research undertaken in some markets by Bord Bia has shown that the associated qualities of suckler beef such as authentic, ethically and naturally raised meat resonated very strongly with the consumer.
“All stakeholders must now put their shoulder to the wheel and deliver on the objectives and road map laid down on what is a defining day for the suckler herd.”
Macra na Feirme president Thomas Duffy
"We have said throughout the process that those high-standard bull beef producers who can utilise grass efficiently enough, to reach the targets laid out should be recognised.
“Macra has repeatedly called for low carbon systems of beef production such as under-16-month bulls to be rewarded from the market along with direct supports for producers of high-quality livestock from the national suckler herd.
"Young farmers in the suckler sector deserve to have the quality of their product recognised and supported.”