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Ferris calls for all-island branding of Agri-food as only solution to labelling crisis

29 April, 2015 - by Martin Ferris TD

Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson in the Dáil Martin Ferris TD, speaking after meeting a delegation of concerned sheep farmers in Poyntzpass, Co Armagh today, accompanied by Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA and Sinn Féin’s Agriculture Spokesperson in the Assembly, Oliver Mc Mullan, said that an all-island brand is the only solution to the current labelling crisis which is impacting negatively on lamb trade and sheep pricing across Ireland.

Deputy Ferris said:

“I’m aware that Minister Michelle O’Neill has already engaged with her counterpart Minister Simon Coveney to discuss possible solutions and Minister O’Neill has assured me that she is prioritising this issue.

“I have strong concerns about the impact that this will have on sheep pricing and jobs in our processing plants. I’m also concerned about how some may seek to manipulate market supply to the benefit of their own profit margins.

“It is Sinn Féin’s view that flexibilities and leniency must be offered by the European Commission, given the anomaly of Ireland’s constitutional situation. We will be considering the merits of using a voluntary label as a temporary measure; however, we strongly believe that all-island branding is the only solution to this current crisis.”

Oliver McMullan MLA added:

“Since the introduction of new European labelling regulations on April 1st this year, the lamb trade across the island has been effectively brought to a standstill. This new ‘country of origin’ labelling requirement means that produce born on one part of Ireland and slaughtered in the other, is disapprovingly labelled ‘mixed origin’ and therefore not attractive to customers. Last year, we saw how similar regulations negatively impacted on our beef trade.

“The apparent contradictions are a product of partition and the reality that we effectively have two separate European regions operating on one small island. This crisis will undoubtedly extend to other Agri-produce, so it is imperative that it is dealt with immediately. I share the frustration of farmers who have seen an effective lock-down in terms of cross-border trade during recent months.” 

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