I propose to take Questions Nos. 265 to 267, inclusive, together.
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.
In 2017, I reduced the veterinary inspection fee payable on live exports of calves less than three months of age to €1.20 per animal. This brought greater equity in the fees payable for calves, weanlings and adult cattle and gave an important boost to the trade. A significant increase in live calf exports resulted in the number of calf exports reaching 159,000 in 2018.
Other initiatives in developing the international export market include the issuing of new health certificates for the export of cattle to Libya which were agreed in November 2018. This increases the range of cattle that can be exported there. My Department is also engaging with the Egyptian authorities to secure the finalisation of agreement on health certificates for the export of fattening, slaughter and breeding cattle.
I have 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. Furthermore, following my visit to Turkey last week, I am confident that consideration will be given to the reopening of the live export market to Irish cattle by the Turkish authorities.
My Department officials are in on-going communication with the Irish exporters with regard to the need for co-operative management between each other to ensure that the lairage capacity at Cherbourg is optimised. I had a recent meeting with the exporters where these issues were discussed. I have also met with farming organisations in recent weeks on the issues. The provision of additional facilities depends on commercial decisions by private industry.
I welcome the recent approval by the French Authorities of an increase in the holding capacity of one of the lairages at Cherbourg. This additional capacity of 400 places is an important boost for Irish calf exports to Continental Europe.