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Opinion: Banagher plant will help insulate farmers from disruption to current markets

Beef Plan expresses concerns over the latest development in establishing a beef processing plant at Banagher Co. Offaly.

The Beef Plan Movement has expressed deep concern regarding the latest development in establishing a beef processing plant at Banagher Co. Offaly.

We are disappointed to see An Bord Pleanála dragging its heels by requesting information on a potential increase in the national herd size and the environmental impact on transporting beef to China.

Ireland is a country that prides itself in being:

  • Firstly, the world’s number one in aircraft leasing;
  • Also, a large exporter in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics;
  • One of Europe’s top destinations for tech companies. Many support social media platforms that require power guzzling data centres.

Therefore, it beggars’ belief why our regulatory organisations have taken such a negative stance on a highly nutritious indigenous product such as beef.

Irish beef farmers have been crying out for competition, with just three players controlling the market.

New markets for Irish beef 

This plant in Banagher will not only create 110 jobs but will potentially open up new markets for Irish beef.

There have been situations in the past where factories have been booked out. This has resulted in delays for farmers getting cattle killed. This has often led to cattle going over the 30-month age limit, with farmers incurring financial penalties.

Also, this has been the case where the UK market goes through periods where demand is depressed. Irish factories go on a reduced kill to control output.

Brexit is also looming on the horizon. The UK is already expressing an interest in developing new trade deals with countries outside the EU.

As a net importer of beef, it is likely the UK will use this as a bargaining chip with beef exporting countries such as Brazil and Australia.

The processing plant in Banagher will offer an alternative market in China. It will help insulate Irish farmers from disruption to our current markets.

Live exports

We have also seen the live shipping of dairy calves coming under pressure from Europe.

In the past, this has acted as a safety valve for livestock farmers. It has taken excess stock out of the country.

In the event that live shipping of calves is diminished in the future, it is essential that we have extra processing capacity to handle the extra stock when they mature.

Methane

Besides, the environmental benefits of producing grass-fed beef in Ireland are well known.

By reducing the Irish herd, we are opening the door for less environmentally efficient beef production models to fill the marketplace.

Countries like Brazil and the USA, where feedlots are common, and cattle are fed huge volumes of grain will simply replace Irish beef on shop shelves.

We also believe An Bord Pleanála should acknowledge that the methane issue for livestock farmers will not be a long-term problem with the introduction of methane reducing additives over the coming months.

Food supply 

Furthermore, Minister Charlie McConalogue stated, “we are living in unprecedented times”.

The influx of over 100,000 refugees will inevitably put pressure on our food supply.

It is important that we support our supply chains and ensure there is strong demand for our produce in the future.

Adding another processor in the beef sector will be a positive development for both producers and consumers.

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