Irish meat processors have hit back at allegations they are trying to undermine livestock marts and standing in the way of free trade between the Republic of Ireland and the UK.
Irish organisation ICOS - which represents livestock marts in the Republic - last week complained to the European Commission that major Irish processors such as ABP, Dunbia, Kepak and Dawn had imposed “onerous” restrictions on cattle movements that had stifled trade between the two countries.
It claimed Irish-owned meat factories in Northern Ireland and mainland UK either refused to process livestock from Ireland or levied fines against it, even though the animals met the regulatory requirements of both countries.
They also penalised farmers by withholding bonuses if animals had travelled through more than four farms before reaching the abattoir, it added. “Through their ‘conditions’, the factories are interfering with the free trade of cattle in livestock marts where it is common practice … for an animal to be sold from farm to farm,” ICOS said. “They are seeking to circumvent the marts system, which enables free trade between farmers and a true reflection of the value of livestock.”
But processor trade body Meat Industry Ireland said the ICOS allegations were “completely inaccurate” and “ignore the realities of the marketplace”. “If the marts are sincere about competition and want to ‘compete’ they can introduce their own bonuses or initiatives rather than crying foul because the processing sector has seen fit to incentivise producers to meet customer requirements.”
Dunbia added it had a policy to not procure livestock from outside the region where its factories operated. “This is a policy that has been in practice for a number of years.”