Live exports are a critical part of the infrastructure of our livestock industry. They play a significant role in stimulating price competition and provide an alternative market outlet for farmers. My Department facilitates this trade, recognising its critical importance to the agri sector, while ensuring that live animal exports meet the highest welfare standards. I continue to prioritise efforts to gain access to new third country markets and, equally importantly, to deepen existing markets for live exports.
I visited Turkey last week to meet with my Turkish counterpart, Dr Bekir Pakdemirli, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry. We discussed existing and future opportunities for technical cooperation and trade in agri-food products between Ireland and Turkey. I impressed upon Minister Pakdemirli the importance of the Turkish market for Irish livestock and our desire to re-establish trade as soon as possible. I am pleased that the Minister indicated his intention to consider the re-opening of the market in the second half of 2019 and I assured him that there is significant interest from industry in this country in resuming that trade.
The stringent system of animal health and welfare controls operated by my Department on the sea journey to Turkey ensures that Irish cattle arrive in excellent condition, a point acknowledged by the Turkish delegation.
My Department is engaging closely with Egypt to reach agreement on health certificates for the export of fattening, slaughter and breeding cattle. The Chief Veterinary Officer has written to his Egyptian counterpart on 4th March in this regard.
In November 2018, the Department reached agreement with Libya on a new veterinary health certificate for the export of breeding cattle, and an amended veterinary certificate for the export of 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. The age of cattle that can be exported to Libya increased from 24 to 30 months – this increases opportunities for exporters to export a wider range of cattle. Live exports to Libya more than doubled in 2018 over 2017 to 5,450 head. There was a recent shipment of 1,000 bulls to Libya.
In January I also extended an invitation to my Algerian counterpart to visit Ireland in early 2019. This follows earlier contact with Algeria, in an effort to reach agreement on revised and separate slaughter, fattening and breeding certificates.