Exports rule roost in
This years Irish Ploughing Match featured more mud
than grass. Nevertheless there were plenty of livestock
issues on show, and monsoon conditions didnt dampen
spirits or attendances with 40,000 passing through the
gates on the first day. James Garner reports
EXPORTS fuel Irish agriculture, and make up a third of the countrys net income. So just as the UK gears up to reclaim lost European beef markets, following the end of the beef ban, the Irish continue to expand.
The Irish food board demonstrated that being part of a common market does not mean common tastes on its stand at this years Irish Ploughing Championships at Castletownroche, Mallow, Co Cork, last week.
Differences in domestic markets throughout Europe do exist, requiring producers to market stock to suit needs, but often guidelines of what is required are unclear, explained Padraig Brennan, marketing executive for the Bord Bia – the Irish equivalent of the MLC.
In an attempt to clear these muddied waters, Bord Bia, displayed beef animals that met various European market needs (see box). Each pen had a billboard to describe the characteristics required, and representatives of processors were on hand to offer advice and discuss markets.
"Producers appreciate a visual example, although they are already becoming more aware of what is required for export markets because of this years poor price. This meant producers had to gain premiums for export quality beef to be in a better position."
According to Kepaks John Collins, the Italian market is becoming one of the biggest for Irish beef. Last year 28,000t made its way to Italian processors.
As a market it has one key component which must be right, otherwise stock are rejected, said Mr Collins. "The fat colour has to be white, not yellow, and they prefer the meat cherry pink."
On the EUROP classification grid, cattle destined for Italy need to be classified as 2,3,4 fat levels, with conformation of E,U and R. Young bulls can be grown to 420kg carcass weight, steers and heifers 280-390kg.
There are rewards though. Mr Collins estimates that the Italian market has a 10-12% premium above the domestic price of IR£0.85/kg (£0.70/kg).
A spokesman for Anglo Irish Beef Processors said the younger generation of Irish beef producers were more market conscious than their predecessors. "They want to know what is required."
and are happy to go to the abattoir to see what they have produced."
* Target market.
* Know requirements.
* Premium price.
• Target market.
• Know requirements.
• Premium price possible.
European beef export guidelines
Holland UK French Italian
Category Steers Steers/ Steers/cows Heifers, heifers steers and
Carcass weight 330-400kg 270-340kg 380-440kg 280-390kg steers heifers/steers
270-360kg to 420kg bulls
EUROP classification EUR 2,3,4L URO 2,3,4 EUR 2,3,4L EUR 2,3,4
Meat colour Bright red Bright red Cherry pink Exports in 1998 25,000t 85,000t 45,000t 28,000t
Source: Irish Food Board