Ger­man fair is the spot for Ir­ish com­pa­nies to tout for busi­ness

Irish Independent - Farming - - Organics -

BIOFACH 2014

Biofach, the largest or­ganic trade fair in Europe, takes place ev­ery Fe­bru­ary in Nurem­burg, Ger­many. It is here that you will find Ir­ish com­pa­nies, backed up by Bord Bia and the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, tout­ing for busi­ness and ac­cess to the valu­able EU mar­ket.

This is the 25th an­niver­sary of the event and over 2,400 ex­hibitors and 40,000 trade buy­ers at­tend over the three days.

Ir­ish or­ganic meat and salmon are the main prod­ucts ex­ported, with com­pa­nies such as Good Herds­men and Bur­ren Smoke­house lead­ing the charge.

The well-es­tab­lished or­ganic mar­kets in the EU have a de­mand, not just for or­ganic, but high-qual­ity or­ganic. 2012 saw an in­crease of 11pc in the sales of or­ganic meat prod­ucts in Europe, with coun­tries like Ger­many lead­ing the way.

The pos­i­tive im­age of Ir­ish beef gains e ven more cred­i­bil­ity when it car­ries an or­ganic logo. John Pur­cell, who is man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Good Herds­men, claims that there is a huge em­pha­sis on buy­ing lo­cal or­ganic meat in Europe. “For this rea­son, break­ing into any mar­ket can be dif­fi­cult,” he said.

“How­ever, we are win­ning on qual­ity, par­tic­u­larly in the valu­able Ger­man and Ital­ian mar­kets.

“Pre­vi­ously, our trade had been with whole­salers, but last year we got our first break­through in the re­tail mar­ket when we s t ar t ed sup­ply­ing Ba­sic Su­per­mar­kets in Ger­many.

“They have 27 or­ganic su­per­mar­kets and their in­ter­nal weekly anal­y­sis shows that our prod­uct out­sold the l ocal al­ter­na­tive ev­ery week.

“This is ex­tremely en­cour­ag­ing for us as this is a com­pet­i­tive and ma­ture or­ganic mar­ket, dom­i­nated by con­sumer de­mands.”

An an­nual ex­hibitor at Biofach, Mr Pur­cell out­lines the im­por­tance of at­tend­ing trade shows.

“It is our en­try port into the EU mar­ket and, each year, we gain valu­able con­trac ts at Biofach,” he says.

Cur­rently sup­ply­ing the largest man­u­fac­turer of or­ganic baby food in the world, Mr Pur­cell knows the im­por­tance of con­ti­nu­ity of sup­ply that is nec­es­sary to fill big con­tracts.

“We just signed another con­tract in Ger­many worth €2.2m. It's on the back of the per­cep­tion that Ir­ish or­ganic meat is an ex­cel­lent clean prod­uct, with lit­tle or no residues.

“Or­ganic baby food is the f as t es t - grow­ing s ec t or in Europe and we are in a great po­si­tion to sup­ply the pro­tein in­gre­di­ents re­quired,” he said.

SHEEP

The steady sup­ply and de­mand that cur­rently char­ac­terises or­ganic beef is not be­ing fully repli­cated in the sheep sec­tor. Mr Bren­nan also works closely with Slaney Meats and Ir­ish Coun­try Meats in Camolin, Co Wex­ford to sup­ply the mar­ket with Ir­ish or­ganic lamb.

“The last few years have been dif­fi­cult for the lamb trade. Farm­ers who sell di­rectly have been far­ing well, but over­all it has not been easy.

“Con­sumers do not have a per­cep­tion of any ma­jor dif­fer­ences be­tween or­ganic and con­ven­tional lamb pro­duc­tion. Last year, we did man­age t o s el l s ome into France, Ger­many and the low coun­tries.

“We need more pro­mo­tion of Ir­ish or­ganic lamb abroad in or­der to ac­cess mar­kets.

“The Leitrim Or­ganic Co-op will be at Biofach this year try­ing to repli­cate the suc­cess of Ir­ish or­ganic beef,” he said.

FIN­ISH­ING OR­GANIC BEEF IN IRE­LAND

Like the con­ven­tional sec­tor, fin­ished cat­tle gen­er­ally tend to come from larger scale farms.

The eco­nom­ics of fin­ish­ing cat­tle is vari­able and can be sub­ject to mar­ket sta­bil­ity and in­di­vid­ual farm man­age­ment. John Bren­nan, man­ager of the Leitrim Or­ganic Farm­ers Co-op, works closely with farm­ers to get or­ganic meat to the mar­ket. Es­tab­lished in 1998, the co-op has ap­prox­i­mately 150 mem­bers. It also car­ries out ad­vi­sor y work through Skill­nets, BTAP and STAP pro­grammes and the Co-op also works to pro­mote rare breeds.

LEITRIM OR­GANIC CO-OP AND SLANEY FOODS

John Bren­nan works with Slaney Foods sourc­ing or­ganic an­i­mals di­rectly from farm­ers and en­sur­ing con­ti­nu­ity of sup­ply.

“There is a big vari­a­tion in gross mar­gins with farm­ers around the coun­try. We see farm­ers op­er­at­ing many dif­fer­ent sys­tems and, in my opin­ion, the more se­ri­ous fin­ish­ers are re­duc­ing their in­puts rather than solely re­ly­ing on con­tin­ued prices in­creases.

“Thank­fully, the sys­tems lend them­selves to be­ing low in­put,” said Mr Bren­nan.

“There are a num­ber of fin­ish­ers us­ing green crops such as kale or turnips to re­duce the need for ex­pen­sive con­cen­trates. Strip graz­ing fields and out-win­ter­ing an­i­mals to re­duce straw and labour also in­creases profit mar­gins,” he ex­plained.

GRASS-FED BEEF

2014 has s t ar t ed out sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent than 2013, with many farm­ers ben­e­fit­ing from the ex­cel­lent sec­ond half of 2013. Many an­i­mals were not brought in­doors un­til De­cem­ber, al­low­ing a con­sid­er­ably shorter in­door feed­ing regime.

“The farm­ers that we work with are re­port­ing fan­tas­tic fod­der crops from last year, with high dr y mat­ter con­tent in silage and red clover silage reach­ing 14-15pc crude pro­tein lev­els.

“All of this greatly re­duces the need for farm­ers to feed con­cen­trates to an­i­mals and gives real weight to the term Grass-fed beef,” said Mr Bren­nan.

Prices be­ing paid to or­ganic farm­ers so far in 2014 are just un­der €5/kg. This is lower than last year, but will pos­si­bly rise as the spring pro­gresses.

“The re­al­ity is that, if the price stays around €5/kg, we c an s el l a l ot more Ir i s h or­ganic beef. This price is on a par with Bri­tain, which makes Ir­ish or­ganic beef more com­pet­i­tive,” said Mr Bren­nan.

“Store cat­tle are mov­ing well, as are farm-to-farm and di­rect sales via our web­site. Most farm­ers are mov­ing away from con­ti­nen­tal to t ra­diti onal breeds. Al­most 90pc of or­ganic an­i­mals go­ing to Slaney Foods last year were an An­gus cross.

“The tra­di­tional breeds are lower main­te­nance and can be fin­ished off grass. Fin­ish­ers are look­ing for an­i­mals over 300kg to have stronger an­i­mals be­ing turned out at the back-end,” he said.

PROGRESS: John Pur­cell, cen­tre, with a group of French chefs in­ter­ested in us­ing or­ganic beef in their restau­rants

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