IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said it is incredible that the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney believes he has no role to play and ‘cannot get involved in’ the proposed investment by ABP in Slaney Meats and the lack of competition in the beef sector. Henry Burns said the Competition and Consumer Protection Authority has told IFA that there is nothing stopping Minister Coveney from having a view on the proposed merger and making a submission to the Authority on the matter.
Henry Burns said IFA has called on Minister Coveney and the Government to make a submission to the CCPC on the investment, and particularly on the importance of protecting and guaranteeing competition in the processing and rendering sectors. The IFA Livestock Leader said cattle farmers cannot understand why the Minister is adopting such a detached policy on this critically important matter on competition.
Henry Burns called on Minister Coveney to take a real interest and address the lack of competition in the beef sector and the unacceptable price gap that has opened up between Irish and British cattle prices. He said Bord Bia has provided the figures which show that the average Irish/UK price gap for 2015 has widened to 82c/kg or €293 per head. This compares to an average of 27c/kg or €97 per head over the 10 years from 2004 to 2013.
Livestock farmers have real fears and concerns around competition and dominance in beef processing as well as rendering in the sale of the Allen family 50% share of the Slaney/ICM business to ABP. This investment would give ABP effective control on up to 29% of the beef kill and three of the six rendering plants in the country. Sheep farmers are equally concerned over competition and dominance in lamb processing with the ABP investment in Irish Country Meats (ICM). ICM currently has up to 40% of the lamb kill and lamb processing also needs more competition.
Henry Burns also called on Minister Coveney to be much more supportive of the live export trade and securing access to our nearest and highest priced market in Northern Ireland and Britain. The Minister must resolve the EU labelling issues that are being used by processors and retailers to impede the live export trade and deny price competition. The Minister must also lead the drive to open live markets to Egypt, Libya and Turkey.