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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
December 10, 2008
Irish Pork & Beef Woes
- Battle to maintain confidence in Irish beef produce abroad
- Fears grow for 400 jobs at three pigmeat factories
- Carlow firm insists it bought oil in Republic
Battle to maintain confidence in Irish beef produce abroad
Arthur Beesley, Senior Business Correspondent
Wed, Dec 10, 2008
DAMAGE LIMITATION:THE DISCOVERY of potentially dangerous contaminants in a very small section of the national cattle herd presents a formidable challenge to the beef industry as it threatens to erode confidence in the safety of all Irish beef products.
This is something of a nightmare scenario for the wider food industry, whose international success rests on Ireland’s reputation as a reliable and safe source of quality product.
Already reeling from the recall of all pork products and the loss of 1,800 jobs within two days, the sector now faces a battle on a second front to maintain confidence in Irish beef at home and abroad.
Although cattle in about 45 farms may have been exposed to the same contaminated meal that sparked the crisis in the pork industry, tests on three of the 11 beef farms examined so far show that the level of potentially dangerous dioxins exceeds the proposed maximum legal limit.
Both the Government and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland have stressed that the contamination levels were “significantly lower” than in the pork sector and represent an “extremely low risk” to public health.
Animals from affected farms will not be released to the market, but there is no recall of Irish beef.
Accordingly, there is considerable relief within the beef industry and the farming community.
Yet if public health and the viability of the food industry at large rest on the safety of food supplies, the perception of safety is equally important.
Doubly so in the case of the Irish beef industry which exports more than 85 per cent of total annual production and which commands high prices in the prosperous European markets it targets.
In the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s announcement by Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith, beef producers and the agencies that support them snapped into action in an effort to reassure their wholesale customers throughout Britain and on the Continent about the quality of the product.
They must still await the verdict of consumers.
Nevertheless, the fact that there is no recall is likely to dim the impact of the contamination story, at least for the moment.
Chief of Bord Bia Aidan Cotter said yesterday that there had been no adverse response to the discovery of beef contamination from any of the 70 major supermarket groups in the network of retailers with which it engages in promotional activity.
He said a reduction in the price that Irish beef could realise was possible, depending on the level and tone of media coverage and consumer response to it.
The irony here is that the price of Irish beef has risen 18 per cent this year in international markets, thanks in the main to the partial EU ban on Brazilian imports.
That the EU ban followed a campaign by the Irish Farmers’ Association neatly shows how food producers in foreign markets can exploit any difficulty faced by their rivals.
And consumers respond to food scares. It it widely accepted that almost 10 years passed after the British BSE outbreak in 1996 before beef consumption fully recovered.
While the foot-and-mouth (FMD) epidemic and a European BSE crisis of 2001 damaged consumer confidence in beef in the interim, Ireland’s industry actually became a beneficiary of the FMD crisis.
Heavily dependent in previous times on export refund trade with Middle Eastern states and Russia, the sector thrived as the British industry went into meltdown and it redoubled efforts to win business in the profitable markets of Britain, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
Needless to say, rival beef industries would not stand by while Ireland sought to put its house in order if the contamination uncovered yesterday erupted into something bigger.
Hence the immediate efforts yesterday to contain the problem.
There was no comment from Larry Goodman’s Irish Food Processors on the fight to maintain confidence in Irish beef.
As the largest processor in Ireland – and indeed Europe – the company is likely to be moving quickly to ensure that there is no erosion to its business.
The same must be true of Dawn Meats and Kepak, who, with Mr Goodman’s company, command more than half the Irish beef market.
Even if there is no further deterioration in the situation, the stakes are pretty high.
Beef output at producer prices was last year valued by the Central Statistics Office at €1.5 billion. Annual retail sales of beef in Ireland were valued at €463 million at consumer prices; and Irish beef exports were valued at €1.57 billion in 2007 at factory and manufacturers’ prices.
Some 113,000 farmers have cattle, of which 69,000 are classified as specialist beef producers.
An additional 7,000 people are employed directly in the beef processing sector and a similar number are employed indirectly in associated industries.
In a shrinking economy, any threat to the industry could have dire consequences.
With the pigmeat industry already on its knees due to contamination from one meal plant, the sales pitch is more difficult now.
© 2008 The Irish Times
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Fears grow for 400 jobs at three pigmeat factories
Ronan McGreevy and Jennifer Long in Waterford
Wed, Dec 10, 2008
JOBS CRISIS:FEARS ARE growing for 400 jobs in three pigmeat-producing factories beside each other on the Waterford/Kilkenny border.
Dawn Pork and Bacon and Kiely Meats based in Grannagh, Co Kilkenny, just outside Waterford city, have temporarily closed with the loss of 370 jobs, while workers at the adjacent Countrystyle Foods plant are being employed taking in recalled pork and may be laid off in the coming days.
Siptu now estimates 1,800 workers have been laid off as a result of the crisis as talks between the producers and the Government over a compensation package continue without agreement.
Dawn, which is the biggest of the three plants in Co Kilkenny, employs 300 workers at its slaughtering facility.
There were long queues outside the social welfare offices yesterday in Waterford city as about 200 workers from the affected plants signed on.
One worker, who has been with Dawn Pork and Bacon for more than 15 years, said the hardest thing for employees to face was the lack of certainty about their future.
"We haven't a clue if we'll be called back in days, weeks or longer," he said.
"Everybody is waiting on phone calls but the reality for management is that they don't even know."
Dawn supplies Kiely Meats which is involved in processed pork products such as sausages, bacon and black and white pudding.
Kiely employs 68 workers, while Countrystyle Foods, which markets and distributes Kiely Meats products, has a workforce of about 30.
"All of our sales people are out with empty vans and a letter of comfort explaining the situation, and they are in the process of bringing volumes of stuff back," said Countrystyle sales manager Pat Lawless.
"We've kept everybody busy doing necessary but unproductive work over the last two days, but we're reviewing the situation on a day-to-day basis.
"I think it is morally wrong to dump this stuff."
Along with the jobs in Co Kilkenny, 230 staff at the Olhausen plants at Coolock, Blanchardstown, Monaghan, Cork and Galway were let go yesterday.
A statement from the company said it had taken the decision with "great regret", and hoped it was only a short-term measure.
"The talks at Government level to resolve the current issue are progressing, and Olhausen management are hopeful that operations can resume upon successful conclusion of those talks," the company said.
Another 115 jobs went at Granby Ltd in Dublin, Drover Foods Ltd in Wexford, and Oakpark Foods in Cahir, Tipperary.
On Monday more than 1,000 workers were put on protective notice, including 850 at the Co Offaly-based pork producer Rosderra. Workers at the company headquarters in Edenderry held a meeting yesterday morning.
Sitpu official Frank Jones said: "There are a lot of Hungarian and Polish workers who did not understand the situation yesterday, but understand it now.
"Our plea is now to the Government to come in and offer us an assistance package to get us back to work.
"We have no word on how the talks are doing. If the producers are not compensated they will close down. They simply can't take the heat on this one."
Sitpu national industrial secretary Gerry McCormack expressed some relief that there would be no similar layoffs in the beef industry following the announcement that only a small number of herds were affected by contaminated feed and there would be no general recall of beef products.
"It should be possible to protect public health fully and maintain consumer confidence without resorting to the sort of indiscriminate measures used in the case of the pig industry," he said.
© 2008 The Irish Times
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Carlow firm insists it bought oil in Republic
Irish Times Reporters
Wed, Dec 10, 2008
The food recycling facility at the centre of the pigmeat recall said today that it had only every purchased oil from "legitimate suppliers in the Republic".
The statement by Millstream Recycling this morning comes after reports that the investigation into the dioxins scare is looking at a business operation in Tyrone.
A report in today's Irish Timesindicates that used oil from electricity transformers originating in Northern Ireland is now thought to be the source of dioxin contamination of animal feed which has led to a food scare surrounding Irish pork and beef.
A Department of Agriculture/Food Safety Authority of Ireland press briefing in Dublin on Monday was told that "inappropriate" oil was used in a burner used in the heating process of waste food at Millstream Recycling in Co Carlow, which was used on 10 pig and 45 beef farms in the Republic.
The PSNI is involved with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Garda Síochána in an investigation into the source of the oil used at the plant where the contamination originated.
The Irish Timesunderstands they are looking at a business operation in Co Tyrone where it is believed waste oil from electricity transformers, which should have been stored or incinerated under licence, may be involved.
Members of the Garda's National Bureau of Criminal Investigation are also investigating the origins of the oil and confirmed they had spoken to a number of people from the Carlow plant. It is understood they have told the officers they bought the oil legally and believed it was of a quality required for the processing of the animal feed.
The gardaí involved in the investigation have indicated their inquiries have not formally become a criminal matter and they are closely liaising with the PSNI to compare the version of accounts given by those in the Carlow plant with the version given by the suppliers in the North.
In a statement from the plant issued today, the company at the centre of the food scare said: "Millstream Recycling wishes to state that the company has only ever purchased the oil from a legitimate supplier in the Republic of Ireland supplier."
Millstream added that it would be inappropriate to make any further comments on the matter while the investigation is ongoing.
© 2008 irishtimes.com
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