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Tuesday, 3rd June, 2014 – The Chairman of ICOS Marts Committee, Michael  Spellman and ICOS Marts Executive Ray Doyle met senior Tesco executives Matt Simister, Group Food Commercial Director and Richard Bellamy, Protein Category Technical Manager, at the company’s headquarters in Cheshunt, UK (on Monday, 2nd June, 2014).

ICOS and Tesco shared views in an open and constructive manner, mainly around Tesco’s buying criteria for Irish beef and its ongoing impact on the Irish Co-operative Livestock Marts sector.  Both Tesco and ICOS agreed to maintain contacts and to continue to share viewpoints and information around the matters which ICOS raised.

As part of the current quality regime required by Tesco and their supplying Irish meat processors, there are restrictions placed on the movements of Irish cattle prior to slaughter.

The Irish factory ‘bonus system’ penalises more than 4 movements of livestock between farms prior to slaughter, ostensibly for quality and animal welfare reasons.   Cattle are also required to have spent a continuous 70 days final residency period on their last farm prior to slaughter and must then go directly from the farm to a meat plant.

ICOS Marts Chairman, Michael Spellman said,  “Since the introduction of QPS, we now have a situation where only 2.48% of factory fit animals are being traded in a mart. Now, with the 70 days residency stipulation forward store sales are also being affected. ICOS believes that the measures in place are anti-competitive. They effectively prevent factory fit animals being traded in livestock marts which provide the only competition in Ireland to the meat factories.”

The ICOS delegation noted that there is a growing appreciation on the part of Tesco that  Ireland has a different beef production environment to the UK. This is due to the small size of farms, the structure of the livestock farming sector and the large suckler base in Ireland. By contrast, in the UK, the size of beef farms is much larger.  Due to this larger scale it is easier to reduce movements and to adhere to a 70 day continuous final residency.

Tesco said it would enter into a further meeting with ICOS to discuss the 70 continuous day residency rule and its impact on livestock marts.

“We explained to Tesco that, as it currently stands, the system they have in place is unnecessarily harsh for Irish livestock producers and that it goes far beyond the recognised Bord Bia Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme,” said Michael Spellman.

“In Ireland, it is common practice, while adhering fully to all animal transfer and traceability regulations, for an animal to be sold from farm to farm on several occasions as it moves from youth through fattening and onto slaughter.  This trade takes place primarily through the marts and there is full traceability under the Animal Identification and Movement (AIM) database managed by the Department of Agriculture.  AIM ensures total traceability of livestock, including more than 4 movements.  It is best-in-class and one of the most sophisticated animal movement tracking systems in the world.”

ICOS – the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society represents co-operatives and organisations in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts – whose associated businesses have a combined turnover in the region of €14 billion, with some 150,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and a further 24,000 people overseas.

ENDS

Information

Ray Doyle, Livestock & Environmental Services Executive, ICOS  Tel Direct: +353 (0)1 6131319

Tim Kinsella, MKC Communications, 086 813 7512