Fears ease for farmers as Turkey to import Irish cattle
Published 14/06/2016 | 02:30
Beef farmers have been offered a lifeline with the news that Turkey has given the green light to live cattle imports from Ireland.
The announcement comes when Irish beef farmers were fearing the worst from a boom in the national herd numbers, with an extra 80,000 head of cattle threatening to collapse prices this autumn.
Hopes were beginning to fade that no live export openings would materialise this year, despite a series of diplomatic pushes by the Department of Agriculture.
Live export agents bought thousands of cattle in anticipation of the massive Turkish market opening up following visits by Turkish veterinary officials here in the spring.
Last year Turkey imported 380,000 head of cattle, with about one third of this sourced in France.
However, the outbreak of Bluetongue forced the Turkish authorities to look further afield, with Ireland's disease-free status and surplus of stock providing a ready substitute.
Live exports are seen by beef farmers as a crucial alternative to the dominant buying might of a handful of powerful beef processors such as Larry Goodman's ABP, Dawn Meats and Kepak.
However, the trade had slumped by over 25pc this year as demand dropped in traditional live export markets such as France and north Africa.
The latter region is dependent on high oil prices, while the French market is renationalising as the industry there promotes domestic product over imports.
"This is a positive development and brings much needed competition to the trade," said the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) president Joe Healy.
Wicklow beef farmer Angus Woods said it was a big achievement by the Irish authorities to secure a health certificate within three months of the first approach from Turkish officials.
"This market is paying about €900 for yearling stock from the suckler herd weighing 300kg, which may not suit every beef producer out there, but it will have positive knock-on effects for every class of stock," said Mr Woods.
However, farm leaders also warned that the development was no silver bullet.
"Weanlings weighing less than 300kg and under 12 months of age are already a strong seller and the 21-day holding requirements are also problematic," said the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association's Edmond Phelan.