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McEntee Calls For Positive Approach To Beef

"huge opportunities for development, but collaborative effort needed to address challenges"

The Minister of State for Food, Horticulture and Food Safety, Shane McEntee TD, today highlighted the tremendous potential of the beef sector and called for a positive approach to its development.

Opening the Teagasc National Beef Conference at Cillin Hill Mart, in County Kilkenny, the Minister said that global population growth and the consequent increase in demand for food meant that the Irish beef sector had enormous potential for development.  However, realising that potential would require all of the stakeholders to address the challenges that undoubtedly faced the sector in a positive and collaborative way.

Referring to the potential for growth in the sector, he said: "The UN forecasts that the world’s population will increase to more than 9 billion by 2050, and this means that demand for food will increase by some 70% in that period. The Irish beef industry must position itself to be part of that growth dynamic, and this means using all the means at our disposal in a collective effort improve the sustainability of the sector in order to meet the ambitious targets in Food Harvest 2020".

Minister McEntee also acknowledged the challenges facing the beef sector, and in particular the need to address the issue of profitability at farm level.  "The challenge for every farmer is to ensure that his farm enterprise is fit for purpose in terms of passing a viable business to the next generation. The development and expansion of the beef sector will only take place if it is profitable for individual farmers. This means  improving technology take up at farm level, breeding the right animals with the necessary maternal and beef production traits, managing grassland efficiently, optimising nutritional inputs, addressing disease issues to reduce their economic impact, and improving efficiency generally".

The Minister said that while Government and its agencies had a role to play in addressing these issues, it was also critically important that farmers, their representative bodies, processors and the agricultural press played their part in driving the message home: "Without a viable farm sector we won't have a beef industry, and dealing with this issue requires a collective effort by all involved".

Minister McEntee also referred to the importance of having a fair and equitable EU and international regulatory and trading framework. In this context he said that the Government was absolutely committed to maintaining a strong and well resourced CAP after 2013, vowed that the Government would continue to strongly defend the Ireland's interests in the ongoing discussions on the future of the CAP and ensure the best possible outcome for Ireland's beef sector in the EU's continuing negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with Mercusor countries.

Concluding, the Minister referred to the importance of the beef sector to Ireland's economy, and to the ongoing work of the Beef 2020 Action Group which had had been charged with identifying the specific actions required to implement the Beef related recommendations in Food Harvest 2020: "At a time when export led growth is being relied upon as a critical element in Ireland's economic recovery, Ireland exports over 90% of its beef, and in 2010 exports were valued at approximately €1.5 billion. The development of this vital sector is a central plank in Food Harvest 2020, and I am looking very much forward to seeing the work of the Beef 2020 Action Group when it is concluded".

Date Released: 05 April 2011