Thursday, 6 December 2018

Ceisteanna (50)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

50. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which live exports have performed to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51191/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Live exports play a vital role in stimulating price competition and provide an alternative market outlet for farmers. The on-going search for new markets is a priority for my Department, particularly in the context of Brexit.

In 2018, up to 10 November over 227,000 head of cattle were exported. This is a 30% increase on the period last year.

Exports to other EU countries significantly increased this year over the same period last year (January to 10 November). The largest export market for cattle was Spain with exports of 84,000 head (up from 49,000), followed by the Netherlands at 48,000 (41,000 in 2017) and Italy at 23, 000 (up from 19,000).

Live exports to third countries have decreased this year, due in part to severe currency fluctuations in Turkey. Nevertheless, nearly 13, 000 head of cattle were exported to Turkey to date this year.

My Department last week reached agreement with the Libyan authorities on veterinary health certs for the export of breeding, fattening and slaughter cattle. Having an agreed health cert for breeding cattle provides much more clarity for exporters, as previously exports of breeding cattle to Libya had to be agreed on a load by load basis. Agreement was reached on an increase in the age of cattle that can be exported to Libya, from 24 to 30 months – this increases opportunities for exporters to export a wider range of cattle. Live exports to Libya more than doubled (from 1,830 to 4, 489) this year to date compared to the same period last year.

The agreement on these certs followed a successful visit by an official Libyan delegation to Ireland last August, at the invitation of my Department. During their visit here, my officials accompanied the delegation on visits to a beef farm, a dairy farm, and to a slaughter plant, where the high standards of the operators and the official controls applied by my Department were demonstrated.

The prospects for live cattle exports remain very good and my Department continues to engage with third countries and to seek out new markets for live exports.

With regard to animal welfare, inspections by my Department ensure that the highest animal welfare standards are strictly complied with during transport of live cattle.

DAFM have put additional controls on calf exports to ensure the highest welfare standards for unweaned calves. Departmental officials visited control posts in Cherbourg in September in this regard and are engaging with live exporters. DAFM officials have met with the ferry companies in relation to calf exports.

Currently, 3 dedicated livestock carriers are approved: mv Sarah, mv Alondra, and the mv Holstein Express. My officials are in the process of completing inspections of 2 further vessels.