Hunt for under-24 month cattle for Libya begins
Ireland is on track to begin shipping live cattle to Libya in the coming weeks as one of the country's largest cattle exporters has already commenced buying stock for the North African market.
While the first loads will be trucked down through France and out to Libya from Marseilles, other exporters are hoping to cut transport costs by chartering specialised walk-on, walk-off livestock boats. The Department of Agriculture is in the process of assessing at least one boat for this purpose at the moment.
But agents remain divided over the Department's decision to suggest a 24-month upper age limit on all stock in the sanitary certificate that was drafted for the Libyan authorities.
This is despite the fact that the equivalent document for French cattle exporters carries no stipulations regarding an age limit for qualifying stock.
As a result, there will be limited scope for grass-fed, dairy-cross steers that would traditionally have been fattened up to 30 months of age.
However, one shipper, who wished to remain un-named said that the Libyan market had moved on from the last time Ireland exported there in the mid 1990s.
"They've been taking in millions of cattle annually from South America and Australia, all under 24 months of age. That's the new norm there" he said.
France, Spain and Italy are already shipping into the Libyan market and provide the greatest competition, according to Bord Bia's Joe Burke. "Irish R3's are making about 25-30c/kg deadweight more than in either Spain or France. When the extra 20-30c/kg liveweight for getting Irish cattle across to France is also factored in, it makes Irish cattle look less competitive at the moment," said Mr Burke.