IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said a strong live export trade is essential to maximise price competition and ensure a balance in cattle supplies relative to market demand in order to optimise prices and avoid the marketing problems which occurred in 2014. He said this is more important than ever, given the expansion of the dairy herd and the requirement to find a suitable market outlet for male calves, particularly considering the bull beef problems in 2014.
Henry Burns said IFA is very clear on the need to have a strong live export trade. He said a critical factor for the beef sector is a strong live export trade for dairy calves. “The decisions farmers make regarding calves from the dairy herd this spring will be crucial in the years’ ahead. What happens this spring will have a significant impact for farmers selling cattle in two years’ time.”
Henry Burns said there are very strong opportunities for live exports in 2015 and IFA will work hard to drive this and maximise price competition. Reduced milk powder costs should drive a strong demand from the veal calf market in Europe. In addition, three specialist boats have now been passed for international live exports and another boat is expected to be cleared very soon. This is very positive for the live trade for cattle to North Africa. Another positive factor is the reopening of the live trade to Turkey with recent shipments from France.
The IFA Livestock leader said a strong live trade will require a clear Government commitment and strong support from Minister Coveney and the Department of Agriculture. “Minister Coveney must continue the work with retailers and others to remove the artificial barriers around labelling impeding the live trade to Northern Ireland and Great Britain.”
Henry Burns said IFA worked hard to drive on the live trade in 2014 with an increase in numbers exported of 25,000 head to 237,000 head, including 52,000 to Northern Ireland. IFA secured the reopening of the Stena ferry route to Britain with live exports increasing by 61% to 18,000 head for the year. In addition, over 17,000 head were also exported to Libya in 2014, after being closed for 16 years. IFA worked closely with shippers, exporters and the DAFM to secure veterinary certificates and new vessels. He said calf exports were strong with 38,000 head to Holland, 22,000 to Belgium and 44,000 to Spain. 30,000 weanlings were exported to Italy.
Henry Burns said cattle supplies will be very tight this spring with Bord Bia forecasting numbers to be back 150,000 head for 2015. “Tighter supplies will make a big difference in 2015 and should swing the balance in favour of the farmers selling cattle. This is a direct result of an increase in live exports in 2013 and a reduction in calf registrations.”
The IFA Livestock leader said security of payment is a crucial issue for farmers selling cattle. He said farmers should cattle in their local livestock mart where payment is guaranteed and in all other cases insist on payment on the day.
Henry Burns said cattle prices are continuing to drive on in the New Year with prices rising and factories having to pay above quoted prices to get tighter supplies. He said the base price of steers is €4.00/4.05 with tops of €4.10/kg paid and for heifers to €4.10/kg with top prices of €4.20/kg paid.