Live exports are a critical part of Ireland’s livestock industry. They play a significant role in stimulating price competition and providing an alternative market outlet for farmers. The Department facilitates this trade, recognising its critical importance to the agrisector, while ensuring that live animal exports meet the highest welfare standards.
In 2018, total live exports of cattle increased by over 30% to 246,000 head compared to 2017. This represented a value of €110 million to the Irish economy, according to Bord Bia. This growth trend has continued into 2019, with live exports of cattle totalling 163,000 up to the 28th April – a 28% increase on the same period in 2018.
My decision in 2017 to reduce the veterinary inspection fee payable on live exports of calves less than three months of age from €4.80 to €1.20 has brought greater equity to the inspection fee regime. Since then there has been continued growth in the export of calves, rising from 102,000 head in 2017 to 159,000 in 2018 – a 56% increase. According to the most recent Bord Bia figures for 2019, calf exports already stand at 123,000 head, with consignments to the Netherlands and Spain accounting for 50% and 31% of this trade, respectively.
This increase in trade is also apparent with regard to the export of non-calves (weanlings, stores and finished cattle), which are approximately 23% up on last year, according to Bord Bia’s most recent statistics.
My Department continues to prioritise efforts to deepen existing markets and gain access to new third country markets.
Just this week, my Department hosted a visit by a Turkish technical team, including officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and ESK (the Turkish Meat and Milk Board). The objective of the visit was to conduct an on-site fact-finding mission to evaluate the technical aspects of live animal and germinal product exports from Ireland to Turkey. This is yet another welcome development as we seek to re-establish our live trade with Turkey. The visit by Turkish officials follows on from my March meeting with my Turkish counterpart, Dr Bekir Pakdemirli, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry.
I also welcome the progress made on live exports to Algeria arising from the technical meetings between my Department and Bord Bia and their counterparts in Algiers last week. The Algerian authorities have agreed in principle to move from a joint breeding, slaughter and fattening certificate to 3 separate certificates. In addition, there is agreement for the maximum age of breeding animals to be raised from 36 to 42 months. My technical experts will now move quickly to oversee the changes to the health certificates for live exports so that they can be forwarded to our Algerian colleagues for their imprimatur prior to the commencement of the revised trade conditions.
With regard to other third country markets:
- A number of consignments of cattle have left for Libya in recent weeks, the most recent on the 3rd of May, carrying approximately 2,400 head.
- In April, my Department reached agreement with the Egyptian authorities on three proposed health certificates for the export of fattening, slaughter and breeding cattle.
- I met with the Kazakh Ambassador in late March to discuss new health certification for the trade of live animals to Kazakhstan. Progress was made in relation to opening the Kazakh market.
With regard to animal welfare, my Department maintains robust oversight of live trade, through a comprehensive legislative framework, and in my recent meetings with exporters, I have stressed the importance of high animal welfare standards. Irish legislation on sea transport is recognised by the European Commission as being among the most effective and stringent legislation in force on transport by sea. With regard to road transport, the Department does not approve journey logs from exporters for any live export where the destination country has an orange or red weather alert in place, or where a significant part of the transit route goes through an orange or red alert area. This is in addition to the annual ban on road transport of livestock to Greece, North Africa and Turkey during the months of July and August.
Furthermore, my Department continues to proactively contribute to efforts to improve animal welfare standards during transport. My Department is currently providing multiannual funding of €75,000 per year over four years to the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) towards the implementation of the second Action Plan of the OIE Platform on Animal Welfare for Europe, in relation to slaughter and transport, within Europe and between Europe and the Middle East and North Africa.