Speaking ahead of the Charolais Breeders meeting in Carrick on Shannon tonight, IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said Ireland needs a strong and vibrant live export trade for cattle this year more than ever.
He said following a lot of work by IFA, the Department of Agriculture and exporters, the Egyptian veterinary delegation which visited Ireland this week, have agreed protocols which should clear the way for the resumption of the live cattle trade to this important market.
Henry Burns said with an additional 50,000 to 70,000 head of finished cattle forecast for the second half of 2016, a resumption of a strong international live export trade is essential. He pointed out that in 2014, Egypt imported $135m worth of live cattle with Australia, Uruguay and Brazil as main suppliers. In 1996, Ireland exported over 100,000 head of live cattle to Egypt.
“IFA has been working on reopening of the Egyptian market for some time, and pursued the case with the Egyptian Ambassador HE Soha Gendi last October,” the Livestock leader said.
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.
He said there are on-going discussions with exporters about the resumption of live exports to Libya. In the past Libya was 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. He said a real drive is needed to open the live cattle market to Turkey. 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.
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.
“Minister Coveney must resolve the EU labelling issues that are being used by processors and retailers to impede the live export trade and deny price competition”.
The IFA Livestock leader was highly critical of the recent moves by meat factories to impose carcase weight cuts. He said “Weight penalties are extremely penal and unnecessary, and target our best farmers and best cattle”. He said the suckler farmers being targeted by the factories with the weigh cuts are our most productive and best performing breeders with the best quality stock.
Henry Burns also called on political representatives to support the IFA proposal to increase direct payment to €200 per suckler cow. He said this was essential to maintain the suckler cow herd which was the bedrock of our €2.2bn beef and livestock sector. He added that independent analysis conducted for IFA showed that for every €1 invested in direct payments in the livestock sector contributed €4 to economic output in the rural economy.