Irish breeders target exports to UK

Irish farmers already export �198m worth of cattle and calves to the UK, but want to sell more. Picture: Getty
Irish farmers already export �198m worth of cattle and calves to the UK, but want to sell more. Picture: Getty
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The chairman of the livestock committee of the Irish Farmers Association, Henry Burns, has this week made it clear the United Kingdom is the top target for his country in increasing exports of live cattle

Speaking in Tullamore at an export seminar, Burns said the overall prospects for the live export trade looked positive for 2014 for both calves and store cattle and he expected the live trade to grow substantially this year.

After reporting that the total live export trade had grown by 31 per cent in 2013, with a total of 209,481 animal exported with an export value in excess of €240 million (£198), Burns said one of the big challenges for 2014 would be to open up the live export trade to the UK.

He wanted Irish farm m inister Simon Coveney and the Irish export body, Bord Bia, to act strongly to break what he called the stranglehold the factories and retailers had on the market in order to secure free and open access for Irish farmers and exporters to the UK.

He also revealed that an announcement on a new ferry route for the live cattle trade between Ireland and the UK would be made in the coming months. Burns described the live trade as vitally important for price competition and market outlets across all sections of the livestock trade.

He added the absence of a live trade for finished cattle, particularly to Ireland’s largest beef export market – the UK – was a major problem that had to be addressed to deal with what he described as “an unacceptable large beef price differential between Irish and UK cattle prices”.

Apart from having designs on the UK market, Burns said Ireland was looking at increasing sales of live cattle to the continent with big increases in calves going to the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and France. He expected sales to Italy and Spain to grow in 2014 with the worst of their economic problems now past.

Two decades ago, Ireland had a massive trade in live cattle going to North Africa but that fizzled out in the late 1990s. Burns reported that this business was now open again, with more than 19,000 head being shipped out last year.

This week has also seen an export mission from the English based meat promotion bodies, Eblex and Bpex, heading to Japan, Korea and India to look at the potential for future trading.

Jean-Pierre Garnier, Eblex and Bpex export manager, said on the visit: “Our exports to third countries are growing well and we must aim to replicate our current successes in the Far East and Africa in other important Far East markets and the Indian subcontinent.

“The UK already benefits from market access for pork in Japan, Korea and India and has developed exports of frozen pork to Japan and Korea. Japan offers very good opportunities for grass-fed beef, bovine offal and premium pork products. The potential for lamb, however, is more limited and may require long-term investment. The 
Korean market is also a longer-term prospect for lamb and grass-fed beef.

“Developing exports has been a key part of our strategy since 2010 and has led to the opening of market access to more than 60 countries for beef and sheep meat.”