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 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.
My Department continues to prioritise efforts to deepen existing markets and gain access to new third country markets. In early May, my Department hosted a visit by a Turkish technical team, including officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and ESK (the Turkish Meat and Milk Board). The objective of the visit was to conduct an on-site fact-finding mission to evaluate the technical aspects of live animal and germinal product exports from Ireland to Turkey. This is yet another welcome development as we seek to re-establish our live trade with Turkey. The visit by Turkish officials follows on from my March meeting with my Turkish counterpart, Dr Bekir Pakdemirli, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry.
With regard to other third country markets:
- In April, my Department reached agreement with the Egyptian authorities on three proposed health certificates for the export of fattening, slaughter and breeding cattle.
- Also in April, a departmental Technical Delegation to Algeria reached agreement on three revised and separate health certificates for the export of fattening, slaughter and breeding cattle. My technical experts moved quickly to oversee the changes to the health certificates and we await Algerian authorities imprimatur prior to the commencement of the revised trade conditions.
- I met with the Kazakh Ambassador in late March to discuss new health certification for the trade of live animals to Kazakhstan. Progress was made in relation to opening the Kazakh market.
With regard to animal welfare, my Department maintains robust oversight of live trade, through a comprehensive legislative framework, and in my meetings with exporters, I have stressed the importance of high animal welfare standards. Irish legislation on sea transport is recognised by the European Commission as being among the most effective and stringent legislation in force on transport by sea.
As has been the case in recent weeks, with regard to road transport, the Department does not approve journey logs from exporters for any live export where the destination country has an orange or red weather alert in place, or where a significant part of the transit route goes through an orange or red alert area. This is in addition to the annual ban on road transport of livestock to Greece, North Africa and Turkey during the months of July and August.
Furthermore, my Department continues to proactively contribute to efforts to improve animal welfare standards during transport. My Department is currently providing multiannual funding of €75,000 per year over four years to the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) towards the implementation of the second Action Plan of the OIE Platform on Animal Welfare for Europe, in relation to slaughter and transport, within Europe and between Europe and the Middle East and North Africa.