25% cut in Irish slaughtering capacity after court decision

Slaughtering capacity in the Irish Republic is set to be reduced by 25% a year after a High Court decision paved the way for rationalisation of the country's beef processing industry.

The Irish Competition Authority had mounted a legal challenge, arguing the deal's implementation would restrict competition in the sector and harm consumers through higher prices.

A spokesman for Enterprise Ireland welcomed the High Court decision to back the strategy, which was agreed with processors four-years-ago to

tackle the problems of over-capacity which had caused some meat factories to work a three-day week. "We have worked with the industry to develop a scheme which will help to ensure efficiency, cost savings and to improve competitiveness for this sector," the spokesman said.

Under the plan, 15-20% of small, independent processors will be encouraged through a compensation scheme, funded by the remaining companies through agreed levies to be paid for each animal killed, to quit the industry.

It is believed the ruling will reduce the national kill by 420,000 animals a year. Players who stand to gain from the rationalisation include Larry Goodman's Anglo Irish Beef processors and Dawn Meats, each with a 20% share of the market, and Kepak which has a 16% share.