There will be a €1.5bn hit to the rural economy if proposals put forward by the Food Vision beef and sheep group to destock the suckler herd are progressed, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has warned.

The Ibec group said that as things stand, the measures contained in the report would lead to a permanent loss of 20% of beef output, equivalent to a beef export loss of €700m annually.

MII’s analysis suggests that beef processing facilities will also be forced to close, resulting in direct and indirect job losses of 6,500, and that some 14,500 farmers would exit the sector.

It said such a farmer exit would lead to reduced economic activity in rural areas “to the tune of an additional €800m per annum”.

The report from the Food Vision beef and sheep group containing proposed measures to reduce emissions from the beef and sheep sector was published on Wednesday.

MII was part of the stakeholder group. However, it and the farm organisations involved have now distanced themselves from the recommendations.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has received the report and has yet to comment on the farm organisation dissatisfaction.


Following engagement with the Department of Agriculture, MII says it “continues to hold concerns” on measures aimed at reducing emissions from the beef herd and, as such, has stated that its meat processor members “cannot support the report in its current form”.

Irish beef output would drop by some 20% if a suckler cull occurs, MII has warned. \ Donal O' Leary

“Despite commitments given by Government that there was no risk to a stable herd, the inclusion of measures aimed at incentivising a reduction in the suckler cow herd will compromise the economic contribution and viability of the beef sector,” a spokesperson said.

The meat industry representative body highlighted that even without cull proposals, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) forecasts a natural fall in the suckler herd of some 3% per annum to 2030.

This, MII said, would result in achieving in the same period the scale of removals modeled in the Food Vision beef and sheep report.

Scientific developments

Drawing attention to the fact that Government has previously stated there would be no risk to a stable suckler herd, the group suggested that scientific and technological developments in the pipeline will deliver emissions targets instead of reducing cow numbers.

There is technology in development that will reduce bovine emissions, suggested MII. \ Houston Greene

MII said “investment should be concentrated on accelerating the overall reduction in emissions from the national herd through science-based measures such as early finishing, genetics, genotyping of animals”.

It also called for the incentivisation of specific emissions reduction measures in the Teagasc MACC carbon plan to support farm-level adoption.

“Scientific developments in breeding lower emitting animals and feed additives offer promising alternatives to achieving overall emissions reduction targets rather than removal schemes,” the spokesperson said.


MII pointed out that European beef consumption is remaining “broadly stable” and that production is in decline.

Therefore, it said that any further reduction in Irish beef production would result in increased EU imports of “higher emissions intensity beef” from Mercosur countries at a time when the European Commission is aiming to deliver a 55% cut in emissions.

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) says there will be an increase in imports of beef from Mercosur countries such as Brazil if Irish production levels drop.

The Ibec group said its members remain committed to working with stakeholders across the beef sector to assist in the transition to a low-carbon economy, while enhancing Ireland’s already strong reputation as one of the most sustainable producers of beef internationally.

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