June 23, 2011


Irish beef sector to gain from beef demand



Ireland's 100,000 beef farming families will take heart as beef demand in Europe is projected to increase by twofold in 2020.


The Beef 2020 Action Group's projections for a 20% production increase have been revised upwards to 40%, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said at an IFA conference in Tullamore, Co Offaly.


This projection will also be well received by the 8,000 people working in meat processing.


"There are tremendous opportunities for Ireland's beef sector arising from a rapidly increasing global population, increasing urbanisation and the westernisation of diets in developing economies," he said. "These factors will lead to an increase of 50% in demand for food globally by 2030, rising to 70% by 2050, and the Irish livestock sector is uniquely placed to be part of that growth dynamic.


"However, we have to act smart, by properly exploiting the natural advantages we have in terms of grasslands and water, and by working hard to ensure that we can stand over what we say about the high quality of our product, the robustness of our food safety controls and our production systems."


Meanwhile, Klaus-Dieter Borchardt, a senior official in the European Commission's agriculture directorate, said Ireland's overall package of European funding is unlikely to be heavily impacted by the imminent reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).


While Borchardt and Coveney both said that farmers are likely to see a cut in the 40% of the EU's budget currently devoted to agriculture, Ireland's position on the median line of funding receipts should mean the changes will have very little impact on them.


Borchardt explained, "The EU average of funds is about EUR270 (US$386) per hectare. That ranges from EUR50/ha (US$71) in Slovenia up to EUR400/ha (US$572) in Denmark.


"Ireland is right in the middle at EUR270/ha (US$386), so you will not feel the impact of the change in budget, which is likely to be found in the draft proposal which will be published next week.


"I would also like to address the rubbish that is talked about in relation to Europe taking money away from 'active' farmers, and taking them out of the industry. We do not want to take out active farmers.


"We want to take out people who are getting farm payments for golf courses, airports or electricity schemes, or farmers who are getting 'sofa payments'.


"We want to take out people who are not active farmers. And the second element of better targeting is the capping of grants.


"There will be no payments for anything above a certain limit. These changes will not affect Ireland, because your payments are already below that limit."


Borchardt also said Irish farmers are already at a clear advantage when it comes to likely new environmental regulations that will promote traditional farming methods, grassland usage and retention of hedgerows.


While some farmers in Tullamore urged the retention of the existing "historical" payment structures, only seven of the current 27 member states are receiving funding under the older rules.


The other 20 states are receiving "regional" payments, and farmers remain uncertain that the new payment model will be of maximum benefit to them.

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