Public money to beef up Irish sector

Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen has announced that the government is to invest up to €69m (£60.5m)in the meat processing sector, which could create up to 800 jobs.

The Irish prime minister said there will be 15 capital investment projects in the beef and sheep processing sector, where grant aid would contribute to an actual investment of about €168m (£147.4m) that would increase net sales and exports by €400m (£350.9m). He said: "In providing over €69m in grant assistance, the government wishes to stimulate investment in the sector to ensure the long-term competitiveness of the Irish industry."

In what is said to be the largest investment in the industry in 20 years, grants have been made available to companies such as AIBP, Dawn Meats and Liffey Meats, while it is reported that Kilbeggan Abattoir Services will be building a €25m (£21.9m) facility in Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath.

The Irish Farmers' Association has said the investment is a positive development for Irish agriculture and agri-food exports, but the money must be matched by the processors delivering viable cattle and sheep prices for Irish farmers on a par with prices across the EU.

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IFA president Padraig Walshe said: "A modern, market-driven processing sector will help secure higher value export markets for Irish livestock and create badly needed jobs for the economy. The processing sector must now secure higher returns for livestock farmers."

However, opposition politicians have criticised the announcement as just a political stunt in time for the Irish elections.

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