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. My Department facilitates this trade, recognising its importance to the agri-food sector, while placing a strong emphasis on the welfare of all animals being transported.
In 2018, total live exports of cattle increased by over 30% compared to 2017, to 246,000 head. This growth trend has continued into 2019, with live exports already totalling 225,000 up until the week ending the 23rd of June. This is up from 173,000 for the same period in 2018 – a 30% increase.
This increase is in part down to 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. This 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 in 2017 to 159,000 in 2018. We have already surpassed this figure in 2019, with 184,000 calves having been exported in the year to date.
With regard to lairage capacity, I would urge the live export sector to consider developing an additional lairage in Cherbourg, or engaging with owners of existing facilities to explore the potential for additional capacity. This has proved possible – as evidenced by the French authorities approving an increase of the holding capacity of the Qualivia lairage in Cherbourg earlier this year. My Department worked closely with the French authorities in this matter. The move provided for additional daily capacity for 400 animals, providing increased capacity of some 1,200 animals per week
In my meetings with live exporters, I have suggested that a representative group be set up to represent their interests with a view to enhancing coordination in relation to the live export trade. The Deputy will be aware that the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Agriculture, Food and the Marine's recent 'Report on the future of the Beef Sector in the context of Food Wise 2025' also makes this recommendation.