Bord Bia plan for promoting Suckler Beef welcome development
Speaking on the emergency Brexit law in the Dáil last week, Denis Naughten called for the establishment of a distinctive Irish brand for “certified grass-fed, extensively reared suckler beef” from Ireland that could command a premium price on key world markets.
Denis Naughten highlighted the need to explore the opportunity to export live cattle into the UK in a post-Brexit scenario because the tariffs on live cattle could be significantly less than that for Irish beef exported as meat and could be the difference between survival and wipe-out for suckler farmers.
The Roscommon Galway TD speaking in advance of the disclosure that Bord Bia are now considering such a strategy said: “There is an opportunity to market that in a global market and get a premium price for it. That is what we should be doing and it should be the responsibility of Bord Bia to drive that forward with producers across the country.
Mr. Naughten has also welcomed reports that Bord Bia are now looking to target key premium continental markets for Irish Suckler reared beef.
He went on to say that “in a no-deal Brexit scenario it is imperative that Bord Bia puts plans in place to make British consumers aware of the positive attributes of Irish beef compared with beef produced in, and imported from, third countries such as the United States or various South American countries.
“It is important that we point out to British consumers that 70% of the deforestation of the Amazon – the lungs of our planet – is to provide land for cattle ranches. Some 11% of the greenhouse gas emissions involved in food production is directly linked to food transportation.
“Surely, it makes far more sense to bring beef from Dublin to London, a distance of 464 km, than 11,000 km from Buenos Aires to London, a journey 24 times longer. The distance from London to Newcastle is the same as the distance from London to Dublin,” Mr. Naughten pointed out.
A copy of Denis Naughten’s full contribution is below:
27th February 2019
If the British Parliament does not reach agreement such that a transitional arrangement for Brexit is put in place by 29 March, Brexit has the potential to decimate the economy of our provincial towns and the remainder of rural Ireland. Regardless of whether a transitional arrangement is put in place, we will face into a new relationship with our neighbours in the United Kingdom from 1 January 2021, which is only 22 months away. We need to start building resilience into our economy and our provincial towns and the rural communities around them. There are three key areas on which we need to focus, namely, agriculture, local business and tourism.
As Members know, agriculture and the agrifood sector are to the fore in terms of any change in the relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom. Beef and suckler farmers in particular face a significantly challenging situation even without Brexit. One in every two cattle reared in Ireland is eaten in the United Kingdom. We urgently need to build resilience into this sector. Immediate action must be taken with a clear focus by An Bord Bia. It needs to act to protect the market share of Irish beef in the British market in a no-deal Brexit scenario. In such a scenario, it is imperative that we differentiate our beef in a manner that ensures it is regarded as the preferential consumer choice compared with other imported beef products in Britain. Bord Bia must put plans in place to make British consumers aware of the positive attributes of Irish beef compared with beef produced in and imported from third countries such as the United States or various South American countries. It is important that we point out to British consumers that 70% of the deforestation of the Amazon – the lungs of our planet – is to provide land for cattle ranches. Some 11% of the greenhouse gas emissions involved in food production are directly linked to food transportation. Surely, it makes far more sense to bring beef from Dublin to London, a distance of 464 km, than 11,000 km from Buenos Aires to London, a journey 24 times longer. The distance from London to Newcastle is the same as the distance from London to Dublin. Those points must be brought home to British consumers in such a situation. We also need to explore the possibility for live cattle trade to the UK for our store and finished cattle. They would be subject to significantly lower tariffs than would be the case for carcasses going into the UK. For example, on the other side of the European Union, Russia has a 5% tariff on live imports of cattle. This is potentially one area on which South America could not compete with Irish beef production and that must be explored and considered by Bord Bia.
Finally on the agrifood sector, we should establish an Irish beef brand to target premium global markets, as was done in the dairy sector with Kerrygold. I am referring to certified grass-fed, extensively reared suckler beef. There is an opportunity to market that in a global market and get a premium price for it. That is what we should be doing and it should be the responsibility of Bord Bia to drive that forward with producers across the country.
Tourism is another area on which we need to focus. It is not the strongest aspect of the local economy in my part of the country but it is of significant importance nationally in provincial and rural Ireland. In my constituency of Roscommon-Galway, overseas tourists support approximately 1,000 jobs. The vast bulk of those overseas tourists come from the United Kingdom. A plan to build resilience into this sector locally has been put in place through the new brand, Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. It allows us to grow and develop the sector such that it can provide high-value employment in rural communities across east Galway, Roscommon and adjoining counties. However, it is important that we support Fáilte Ireland in its ambition to develop and grow this brand. Key to that is marketing the Beara Breifne way, which is Ireland’s answer to the Camino. It runs from the Beara peninsula in west Cork, up through the middle of Ireland to Blacklion in County Cavan and on to the glens of Antrim. That needs to be marketed globally, just as was done for the Wild Atlantic Way. In tandem with that, we must develop and exploit the blueway from Limerick along the Shannon corridor up to the Shannon pot. We also need to develop the greenway which runs from Dublin city centre through Athlone and Ballinasloe and on to Eyre Square in Galway. It is key that those three elements of infrastructure are put in place if we are to successfully develop the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands tourism brand and provide resilience in the tourism sector in our region.
The final point I wish to highlight is the need to build resilience into our business and enterprise sector. In fairness to the Government, it has been doing a significant amount of work in this regard and has been holding regional roadshows across the country. However, I am particularly focused on local businesses, especially those indirectly impacted by a future in which the United Kingdom is outside the European Union. Although local enterprise offices can support companies of up to ten employees, those that have more than ten employees, are not exporting or do not have the potential to export are effectively being cast adrift. These businesses are the bedrock of the economy of many of towns and villages across Ireland. They provide locally and nationally traded services and should come under the umbrella of the local enterprise offices.
We also need to examine the remit of Enterprise Ireland. The criteria should be altered so it can support companies involved in import substitution, which has not been examined to date. Enterprise Ireland has focused only on exporting businesses or those with the potential to export, not those associated with import substitution, especially that involving non-EU countries. I refer in particular to when the United Kingdom becomes a non-EU country after Brexit. Enterprise Ireland’s remit really needs to be reviewed quickly in this area.
The objective must be to protect, support and grow the local companies. They represent the future of many of the smaller towns. They involve local people who came up with an idea, started up a business and grew it, perhaps over generations, employing perhaps 12 to 100 people in many provincial towns and many smaller rural communities. It is important that we support them now. It is also important that we work with them to identify their vulnerability in regard to Brexit because many of them, because they are not directly exporting, do not realise they are vulnerable and prone to the changing dynamic across the Irish Sea. They may not be directly affected but their customers or suppliers may be.
The Tánaiste flagged in an interview last week the EU cross-border healthcare scheme and the treatment abroad scheme, two very successful schemes providing the public in this country with access to healthcare so they can avoid being on a waiting list or obtain urgent care they need. I am glad we have got reassurance that these schemes will remain in place after March. I understand, however, that the commitment is only until 31 December 2020. We need to provide clarity beyond that date. If people require treatments that involve revisiting consultants, they need to know that in January and February 2021, they will be able to continue to gain access to the required healthcare, either in Northern Ireland or Britain.