5 January 2001

Irish cattlemen pinning hopes on PFDscheme

IRISH cattlemen will start offering over-30-month animals for slaughter under the EUs Purchase For Destruction scheme from next Monday (Jan 8), relieving some of the pressure on depressed beef markets.

In the past two months values have slipped from about Ir90p/lb (160p/kg) to Ir78p/lb (138p/kg) for R grades and, with key markets such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia still closed due to BSE fears, more beef has been diverted to the UK.

But, as FW went to Press on Wednesday, it was still unclear what price would be paid under the PFD scheme.

The Department of Agriculture in Dublin was indicating about Ir87p/lb (154p/kg) for R3 steers and heifers. But the Irish Farmers Association was holding out for Ir90p/lb (160p/kg) for lower O grade cattle, to put a viable base in the market.

"Thousands of farmers will lose thousands of £s from the current BSE crisis," said IFA president Tom Parlon. "This scheme is at best a salvage operation."

Application forms should be available from local government offices and participating meat plants from today (Friday). There will be capacity to handle 25,000 head/week. To be eligible, animals should have been present on Irish holdings for at least six months, and must be accompanied by their Cattle Identity Cards.

Routine tests

Dublin has also indicated that routine testing of over-30-month animals will be available in participating abattoirs shortly. "We want to offer farmers an alternative to the purchase for destruction scheme," said a government spokesman.

If animals are tested and passed as BSE-free, then they may enter the human food chain, so saving the government the estimated Ir£250-300/head slaughter and destruction cost.

The department estimates that some 15,000 over-30-month animals a week will be tested and cleared for sale through normal commercial channels.