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.
Since 2016, more than 60,000 Irish cattle have been exported to Turkey. 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 authorities.
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 now have a clearer understanding for the reasons behind the Turkish Government’s decision to suspend the issuing of new import licenses in late 2018. There are obvious concerns in Turkey regarding over supply in the beef market, a matter which Minister Pakdemirli is determined to address. I am pleased that the Minister indicated his intention to consider the re-opening of the market in the second half of 2019. I assured him that there is significant interest from industry in resuming that trade.
We agreed that our officials would continue to explore opportunities for future cooperation and a visit by a Turkish technical team, including officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and ESK (the Turkish Meat and Milk Board) is planned for this summer.