The ability of poultry producers to make a sustainable income is being jeopardised by the importation of sub-standard product, IFA Ulster/North Leinster regional chair Nigel Renaghan has said.

Speaking in the aftermath of the Mercosur trade deal agreement, Renaghan said it was not only beef that would be impacted as South American countries were also being allocated a quota of 100,000t of poultry meat.

Approximately 500,000t of South American chicken is imported into the EU annually.

Renaghan said this was sub-standard product and had been shown to be: “When people talk about meat plants that were closed in Brazil the reality was the majority of them were poultry plants. Irish poultry farms are family-owned farms rather than what is happening in Brazil, which are big corporate farms.”

Domestic production

Ireland is not self-sufficient in chicken but Renaghan said domestic producers could not increase production due to the volume of imported product.

He said one of the biggest problems for poultry farmers are Government bodies.

He said when food contracts for the likes of schools, hospitals and semi-state companies go for tender, 99% of the time it comes from the cheapest source.

Renaghan said: “The patients in the hospital that we are trying to give the best treatment to, the poultry meat they’re getting is imported. These bodies want to buy from the cheapest source but when they come to my farm, they will practically live with me to make me have higher and higher standards.

“All we want is to make a living but when deals like this are being done, undermining us with this sub-standard product, what future do any of my children have to go into this?”