PGI for Irish Grass Fed Beef must include Northern Ireland

Wednesday, 18 November, 2020

The Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC), the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association (NIMEA) and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) have joined forces to voice their strongly held view that an application to register 'Irish Grass Fed Beef' as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) must include the geographic area of Northern Ireland (NI) from the outset before it is submitted to the European Commission for registration of the PGI. The application has been prepared by the Irish Food Board (Bord Bia) and following completion of a recent National Opposition procedure in the Republic of Ireland (ROI), the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM) has indicated that it is getting ready to submit the application and that it would support Northern Ireland’s participation in the PGI at a ‘later date’. 

Commenting on this issue Ian Stevenson, chief executive of LMC said, “There has been much coverage of this issue in the agricultural media on both sides of the border. Our farming and processing stakeholders in Northern Ireland are united in wanting to see this PGI registration succeed. It will be seen as welcome recognition and protection for the excellent credentials and quality of our grass fed beef which is widely known in the marketplace whether it’s from Limavady or Letterkenny. Where our industry has a very real concern and legitimate interest about this particular application going forward without Northern Ireland inclusion at the outset, is what guarantees and comfort can the industry take from joining the PGI at a later date when the right opportunity to join is now.”

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said, “Our members have made it very clear from the outset that they want to be part of the Irish Grass Fed Beef PGI. We were shocked to see reports in the ROI asking if NI had a genuine interest in being part of it. Not only has NI repeatedly expressed its desire to be included from the start, submitting an All-Ireland application is the only logical way to move forward with the process and we were very disappointed that DAFM and Bord Bia continued to draft the submission without our involvement. The gaps in our verification systems are not vast and are being currently worked upon. Therefore, we urge DAFM and Bord Bia to include NI from the get-go to prevent setbacks and help ensure a simple and straight forward process. The last thing we want is to have to object to the ROI’s application which would be in no one’s best interests. However, we are working on behalf of our NI beef producers and our priority is to ensure that they can remain on a level playing field with those in the ROI and can receive a fair economical return for the high-quality product they produce.”

The NIMEA welcomes the Irish Grass-fed PGI initiative. Conall Donnelly, chief executive of NIMEA commented, "Grass-fed beef production on the island of Ireland is renowned and the industry North and South benefit from, and rely upon this reputation, particularly in European and Global Markets. The protection of NI industry in its use of its Irish grass-fed identity is essential."

Concluding Ian Stevenson added, “Unfortunately we have a long history on the island of Ireland of not cooperating as well as we should across the border when it comes to the registration of PGI’s in the beef and lamb sector and lessons need to be learned from previous exercises. It is essential that this application gets the best chance of success when it is entered into the necessary EU processes of scrutiny and opposition. The Northern Ireland beef industry already has a wide range of robust systems in place such as the world leading APHIS traceability system and one of the world’s longest running Farm Quality Assurance Schemes for beef and lamb. When you look at the investments which the beef industry and government have made over the last two decades in initiatives such as GrassCheck to monitor grass growth and utilisation and the Bovine Information System (BoVIS) to integrate data and monitor animal performance it is clear that our beef sector won’t be found wanting when it comes to putting any additional procedures in place that may be needed for the PGI grass fed beef verification.”