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 agricultural sector and ensuring that live animal exports meet the highest welfare standards.
In 2018, total live exports of cattle increased by more than 30% to 246,000 head compared to 2017.
This represents a value of €110 million to the economy, according to Bord Bia. This growth trend has continued into 2019, with live exports of cattle totalling 163,000 up to 28 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 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.
The live export of cattle is a commercial undertaking. It is, therefore, not appropriate for my Department or Bord Bia to set targets; rather, they seek to facilitate the industry by creating the market opportunities for the trade. My Department will continue to prioritise efforts to deepen existing markets and gain access to new third country markets through the negotiation of new and revised health certificates.
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.