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Minister Smith stresses contribution that Beef Industry can make to Economic Recovery

Ireland is fourth largest beef exporter in the world, with 90 per cent of output exported

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, stressed the critical importance of the Irish beef industry from an economic and social perspective and the contribution that it can make to economic recovery.

Minister Smith, who was speaking in Kilkenny at the Beef Expo Ireland 2010 event, said that the value of the industry was illustrated by the "more than 5,000 people employed directly in the processing sector, which purchases the output of some 80,000 farmers, and exports a high quality, indigenous Irish product with an annual export value of €1.5 billion".

The Minister said that "Ireland's future economic growth will be driven by exports of goods and services which will generate jobs directly in the provision of those goods and services. Ireland is the largest net exporter of beef in the northern hemisphere and the fourth largest beef exporter in the world.  The beef industry has succeeded over the last decade in transforming itself, with more than 99 per cent of Irish beef exports now placed on high value EU supermarket shelves. We have a fantastic product and I am confident that with the commitment of farmers, processors and the relevant state agencies we can deliver on the ambitious targets set down in the Food Harvest 2020 report which targets a 20 per cent growth in the output value of the sector. Better animal breeding, through the uptake of new scientific methods such a genomics will help achieve this target.  The involvement of all stakeholders will be critical in this regard".

Minister Smith described the Irish beef industry as "a farm sector providing a sound basis for sustaining vibrant rural communities and an indigenous processing industry providing secure employment as well as providing key linkages to a sophisticated international market place".

Commenting on the Food Harvest 2020 Report, Minister Smith said that "While the Food Harvest Report sets the agenda for the development of the sector, we turn now to the implementation phase and a successful outcome will require a collaborative effort from all of the stakeholders to address the undoubted challenges of profitability and competitiveness facing the industry". The Minister added that this would require a focus by operators along the value chain on the adoption of the best technologies and operational practice, on innovative product development strategies and the use of new and more effective ways of branding and marketing our product.

"We must recognise the unique characteristics of Ireland's green, grass based production systems, we must convince our customers, through the application of objective, science based analysis, of the tremendous advantages these systems have from an environmental and animal welfare perspective, and we must ensure that these characteristics, which are valued by consumers in an increasingly sophisticated international market place, are capitalised upon in the development of strong and distinctive brand for Irish beef", said the Minister.

The Minister congratulated the organising committee of Beef Expo 2010 and all of the participants and said that he was "delighted to provide significant funding to events such as this and the previous Beef Expo 2008, which reflect my commitment to ensuring a strong and vibrant export-oriented livestock sector." The Minister also acknowledged the importance for everyone involved in agriculture and in particular the livestock sector, of the production of quality livestock by exhibiting our top animals on a national stage like this. The Minister said "Over 600 of the best pedigree cattle in the country are on show here today to both Irish commercial beef farmers and to a host of International buyers. The cream of the country's cattle are here competing for prestigious titles. It is a unique occasion for over 200 pedigree breeders to showcase the best and most profitable beef cattle which are the foundation of a sustainable beef sector. I am pleased to see such high quality cattle on display and hope the event leads to the development of a significant export market for our breeding animals".

Date Released: 10 October 2010