IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns has said Ireland needs a strong and vibrant international live export trade for cattle this year, more than ever.
He said with Bord Bia forecasting an additional 50,000 to 70,000 head of finished cattle for the second half of 2016, it was never more important for Ireland to secure the reopening of the international live export trade to countries such as Egypt, Libya, Turkey, The Lebanon and other NAME (North African Middle Eastern) markets.
Henry Burns said the Minister for Agriculture and the Government needs to prioritise the live trade and access to both International and European markets. He said a strong and vibrant live export trade is essential for price competition and to maximise market outlets.
IFA is working with the Department of Agriculture, and exporters to progress access and contracts to a number of these markets. Currently Egyptian veterinary specialists are in Ireland to progress the reopening of the live trade to this important market. Henry Burns said the discussions are going well and he is hopeful of good progress.
Henry Burns pointed out that there is an ongoing large live export market for cattle into Egypt on an annual basis. In 2014, Egypt imported $135m worth of live cattle, with Australia, Uruguay and Brazil as main suppliers. In 1999, Ireland exported 90,000 head of live cattle to Egypt.
The IFA Livestock leader said there are on-going discussions with exporters about the possibility of reopening live exports to Libya. In the past Libya as a very important market for Irish live cattle taking up to 81,000 head in 1995. In 2013, when the Libyan market reopened to Ireland after an absence of 15 years, Ireland exported 14,542 head and a further 17,667 head in 2014.
Henry Burns said a real drive is needed to open the live cattle market to Turkey. He said in 2015, France exported up to 80,000 head of live cattle to Turkey and currently the market is active but Ireland is unfairly denied access.
The IFA Livestock leader said there are also live export market opportunities for Ireland in other North African markets such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia which need to be actively pursued. He said in 2014, Morocco imported live cattle to the value of €35m from EU member states. Algeria live cattle imports amounted to €79.5m and Tunisia imported livestock worth €13m, mainly from France. He said these figures and values show the potential in these markets for live exports.
On the live export trade within the European single market, Henry Burns said it is totally unacceptable that processors and retailers are using EU labelling issues to impede the live trade and access to our important markets in Northern Ireland and Britain. He said this is a key issue in terms of the open and fair operation of the EU single market.