Tesco UK under fire for preferring Irish beef
The UK's National Beef Association (NBA) has criticised Tesco for preferring Irish to British beef over the Christmas period.

The NBA quizzed Tesco over the lack of British beef available on its shelves over the festive period.

The farming organisation said Tesco’s response was that the retailer is “constantly reviewing product quality on the beef that is purchased and we have found at this moment we are finding the beef from Ireland to be of a better quality”.

‘Shameful’

Chris Mallon, chief executive of the NBA, slammed Tesco’s comments by saying: “It is shameful for Tesco to blame the quality of British product for its absence on Tesco shelves. The real reason is their buying policy which prioritises ‘cheapest first’. It shows a complete disregard for Tesco’s UK suppliers to put out statements falsely informing consumers that British product is inferior, instead of admitting that they source on price.”

As highlighted by the NBA, Irish beef was cheaper in mid-November, when supermarkets were sourcing meat for the festive season. The British average price was 378.9p/kg whilst the Republic’s price converted to 333.7p/kg.

Bord Bia’s beef sector manager Mark Zieg told the recent meat marketing seminar that the growing British acceptance for Irish beef was helping exports and “this is something we want to build upon”. Zieg showed a picture of a large billboard in a UK supermarket advertising British and Irish beef as one to illustrate his point.

Watch an interview with Mark Zieg in our video below:

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Watch: Beef Plan Movement protest over exclusion from TB forum
Despite a meeting with Department officials last week, a request by the Beef Plan Movement to have representation at the TB stakeholder forum has been denied.

The Beef Plan Movement held a protest outside a TB stakeholder forum meeting that was held at the Department of Agriculture’s Backweston Campus on Wednesday.

Stakeholders met with the Department as part of ongoing consultations around plans to eradicate TB by 2030. However, Beef Plan Movement representatives were protesting outside the gates from 1.30pm.

A spokesperson for the Beef Plan Movement told the Irish Farmers Journal that following a meeting with Department officials last week, the group had hoped to have representatives in the meeting.

Denied

However, in an email received on Tuesday evening, its request to attend the meeting was denied by the Department. Instead, the Beef Plan Movement’s addition to the forum will be discussed by existing representatives at the meeting.

Beef Plan Movement chair Eamonn Corley said the decision was a slap in the face to the group, which he claims now represents 17,000 beef farmers. He said the group was entitled to be there given the backing it had received from farmers.

Corley said the Department should be “big enough to decide itself” and it should not be up to the other parties involved.

Policy

He said that at last week’s meeting with officials, the Beef Plan Movement had outlined its policy on the direction TB eradication should take based on 10 points from the group’s original 86-point plan.

Corley added the Beef Plan was “completely against” two new proposals being considered. These are the inclusion of a farmers TB history on mart boards and a 30-day pre-movement TB test.

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Breaking: Irish beef to lose out as UK to open floodgates to Brazil
Exclusive: Irish tariff advantage over South American beef set to vanish under British no-deal Brexit plan.

The Irish beef sector is set to be trapped in a lose-lose Brexit scenario, with hundreds of millions of euro of losses on the line.

The Irish Farmers Journal can reveal that punitive trade tariffs will be imposed on Irish beef by the British government, but a possible loophole in the form of a tariff-free quota will also apply to Ireland's main competitors, lowering prices.

On Tuesday, UK environment secretary Michael Gove pledged to protect British farmers through the imposition of tariffs on agricultural imports post-Brexit.

High tariffs

Sensitive products such as beef will have high tariffs imposed.

This is bad news for Ireland, particularly when it comes to beef. Currently Ireland and fellow EU members enjoy tariff-free access to the UK within the single market. The rest of the world must pay tariffs at WTO levels, giving us a €3/kg competitive advantage over US and Brazilian beef.

Meat Industry Ireland on Tuesday estimated the cost at €750m per annum

Now, Ireland will be forced to compete with Brazil and others on a level playing pitch. Over half of Irish beef goes to the UK, and it comprises 70% of their imports.

This will now all face a levy of over €3/kg, doubling the price of cheaper cuts such as burger mince.

Meat Industry Ireland on Tuesday estimated the cost at €750m per annum.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has pledged that he will seek emergency support from Brussels to compensate Irish farmers for the losses they are facing.

However, it gets worse.

The Irish Farmers Journal can reveal that when Michael Gove and trade secretary Liam Fox present their plans to cabinet for approval today (Wednesday), they will propose a massive tariff-free quota for beef, one that will account for most, if not all, of the British import demand.

This will have the effect of cutting supermarket beef prices, at the expense of their own farmers.

Losses

Irish exporters will still be competing on a level playing pitch with Brazilian product in what effectively would be a tariff-free environment. In this scenario, the value of Irish beef prices will fall by hundreds of millions of euro, but it will probably be harder to get compensation from Brussels for the losses the regime will impose.

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Listen: 'WTO tariffs will add €1.7bn to Irish exports' - Minister Creed

No-deal impact on farmgate prices

Exclusive: cheap food imports threat from no-deal Brexit plans

Investigation needed into beef crisis – Healy-Rae
Several politicians expressed frustration at the Department of Agriculture's assessment of the future viability of the beef industry.

Suckler farmers need an investigation into what has gone wrong in the beef sector, the Oireachtas committee for agriculture was told on Tuesday.

Officials from the Department of Agriculture appeared in front of the committee to provide an update on the future of the beef sector in the context of Food Wise 2025.

In her opening statement, assistant secretary general in the Department of Sinead McPhilips said the Department remained committed to supporting and developing the beef sector.

Critical state

Reacting, Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae said suckler farmers were in a critical state and that his constituents needed answers on what has gone wrong in the beef sector.

“There’s something wrong and there needs to be an investigation,” he demanded.

“The Department needs to be brought to task.”

The Department of Agriculture was accused of failing to grasp the reality of the crisis in the beef sector.

Showing visible frustration, Fianna Fáil’s Jackie Cahill said the Department needed to “state facts and not try to hoodwink people”. He said Food Wise made no mention of profitability and that farmers were losing money hand over fist.

Insult

He branded the Department’s response to the challenges in the beef sector as an insult.

McPhilips emphasised the Department had no role in setting beef prices but that it had made efforts to facilitate better integration in the supply chain, particularly through producer organisations.

She said Minister Creed stressed the need for stakeholder to recognise their independence and work together. However, as of yet, no beef forum meetings are planned for 2019.

Supports

McPhilips said the lack of profitability in the suckler sector was not a new issue and 20 years ago, payments made up 100% of suckler farm incomes.

She said analysis would show suckler farmers received €500/cow in supports. It was added that all future payments would need to be justifiable based on delivering economic and environmental efficiencies.

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