Ireland should open an embassy in Tehran in order to help open up new markets for beef, Independent Deputy Michael Collins told the Dáil.
Over the past number of weeks, he said beef farmers have been holding public meetings in West Cork and Kerry, which have been attended by hundreds of people who are trying to see if they can save their livelihoods.
Prices for cattle have collapsed and many are working at a loss and they cannot allow this to continue.
‘We have to urgently look at other markets,’ he said. ‘If we do not, the beef farmers will face the worst crisis they have ever seen. The Iranian market is a significant option, with encouraging signs that it wants Irish beef, lamb, chicken and turkey. We face one stumbling block to a strong export market to Iran. Other strong exporting European countries have embassies in Tehran, Ireland has not. The Iranian ambassador has said that is a major stumbling block for Iran.’
In reply, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said markets had been opened in China and Japan. ‘The European Union has just signed a trade deal with Japan so new opportunities and markets are being opened to Irish beef all the time,’ he said. ‘At the moment, we do not have plans to reopen the embassy in Tehran. This year, we will open embassies and consulates in Mumbai, Los Angeles, Oman, Santiago, Bogotá, Vancouver and quite a few more.’
Speaking in the Upper House, Fine Gael senator Tim Lombard said the key reason there has been no increase in price is the large number of cattle killed in Ireland.
‘At one stage, 40,000 animals a week were being killed, he said. ‘That is extraordinarily high compared to the numbers usually killed. Traditionally, 20,000 to 30,000 animals were killed. Much of the increase relates to the expansion of the dairy herd, as well as Friesian bull calves coming through the system. Those changes are depressing the price because there is only a certain demand for beef.’
Unless large numbers of Friesian bull calves are moved in the next few weeks, this cycle will continue in two years when those cattle will be finished, he said. ‘We can move more than 80,000 animals a week off of the island using ferry services and hauliers,’ he said.
‘It needs to be ensured that those animals are moved. There is a market for them in France but there is a problem in Cherbourg with lairage (holding areas). That problem needs to be examined.’
This industry is a key part of rural Ireland, he said. ‘Rural Ireland will slowly die away unless we support the industry. We need a debate with the Minister for Agriculture Deputy Creed,’ he added.
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