Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has welcomed confirmation that the EU Commission is supportive of the north being included in the application for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for 'Irish Grass Fed Beef'.

McAleer said: "Sinn Féin has consistently lobbied for an all-island approach to this application. My colleague, Matt Carthy TD, and I have raised the issue with Ministers Poots and McConalogue and we met Bord Bia to advance the case for inclusion the north.

  "Agriculture is highly integrated across the island and our cattle are raised to the exact same standards across the country.

“There is no reason why the north should not be included, particularly when the precedent of all-island PGI status has been set in other parts of the food and drink sector, such as whiskey and salmon, and the fact that our standards are aligned under the EU protocol.

Value of PGI status

The MLA continued: "A recent study carried out by the European Commission found that the sales value of PGI meat products was, on average, 1.2 times the sales value for comparable standard products without a GI label.

"Therefore, if successful, the registration of 'Irish Grass Fed Beef' under the EU's PGI scheme, could deliver many economic benefits for qualifying businesses.

"The announcement from the EU Commission that the north should submit a 'constructive opposition' as a means to officially communicate our desire to be included is great news.

"I welcome the fact that a PGI working group has been set up to consider the technical specifications and verification criteria for Irish grass fed beef.

According to McAleer, farmers deserve the opportunity to market local beef on the international stage as uniquely distinctive and of world beating quality.

Impact of Brexit

McAleer said that he also believes that in the context of Brexit and trade deal negotiations with countries such as Australia, there is a "serious risk" that the British market could soon be flooded with imported, cheaper food.

"Farmers may soon be unable to rely on the British market, and this is why it is vital we use our unique status under the EU protocol to make this bid, to help our agri-food businesses reach new markets and expand existing markets across the EU and beyond, as well as still having access to the British market," McAleer said.

"There is no difference in the beef of an animal raised in Co. Antrim compared to one raised in Co. Cork; an all-island PGI for 'Irish Grass Fed Beef' makes sense, and the EU Commission announcement is very welcome."