IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns has repeated his warning on the need for a strong live export trade, especially for male calves from the dairy herd, to maximise cattle price competition and ensure a balance in future supplies in order to prevent a repeat of the severe problems that occurred in 2014.
Henry Burns said IFA is very clear that a critical factor for the beef sector is a strong live export trade including 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 IFA raised this issue at the last Beef Forum meeting in early February and the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney accepted that the live trade was essential for the beef sector in terms of competition and market balance. The IFA Livestock Leader said “Farmers need to do the figures taking account of calf prices, production costs and beef prices. In addition they should talk to their beef processors on contract price arrangements for 2 years’ time before exposing themselves financially to avoid a repeat of the difficulties in 2014.”
Mr 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 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.