Vital calf export trade faces severe disruption

Limited facilities at French port and tight travel times pose problems for shippers

Live shipping exports
Live shipping exports
Pat McCormack President of the ICMSA.

Martin Ryan

The vital live export trade for calves to the continent could be severely disrupted this spring because of "unworkable" regulations on travel times, it was claimed by one of the country's largest live shippers yesterday.

David Scallan of Wicklow Calf ­Company told the Farming ­Independent that the important trade was ­facing serious problems associated with travel times and restricted facilities at Cherbourg in northern France.

The difficulties centre on a shortage of lairage facilities at the port, with just two yards that can be filled by 10-12 trucks.

The nearest alternative lairage facilities are four hours from Cherbourg, which takes the trucks over the maximum travel time for calves.

"I am extremely concerned there is a possibility that the live export trade for calves from this country could be faced with near collapse next spring unless a solution is found," Mr Scallan said.

"Urgent action is needed from all concerned, including the Department of Agriculture, before it is too late and the market is gone," Mr Scallan maintained.

It is understood arrangements are being made to discuss the situation with industry players and the Department of Agriculture over the next week.

"The crossing time is 17 hours, and the calves may have clocked up one to two hours before departure from the Irish port, which leaves no time for any travel after arrival [in France], within the maximum limit of 19 hours before the calves must be rested and fed," Mr Scallan explained.

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"When we try to advance book lairage at Cherbourg and it is not available, the Department of Agriculture will not sign the documentation for the export," he said.

"The travel time regulation is now being more tightly enforced and it is my understanding that some trucks have had their licences temporarily withdrawn for breaches," Mr Scallan said.

Commenting on the issue, ICMSA president Pat McCormack said it would be a very serious matter to limit live cattle shipments.


"We cannot afford this kind of interruption to our live trade at the best of times and right now, in terms of beef prices, this is very far from being 'the best of times'.

"If these reports are confirmed, we will expect immediate intervention on the part of the Irish Government," said Mr McCormack.

"If it's a question of limited capacity or pressure on logistics at the French end, then this is something we have to look at in co-operation with the French authorities," he added.

The live exports of calves in 2018 has to date exceeded 150,000 head - an increase of 50,000 on last year - only the second year in the last 25 years that the live export of calves exceeded 150,000 head.

Meanwhile, the culling of cows to offset the impact of the summer drought has seen cattle intakes at beef plants hit a 15-year high for the month of September.

Total September supplies to the factories exceeded 154,000 head - compared to 145,000 head in 2017.

Last month's figure is the highest monthly kill in September since 2003, when 160,000 head were processed by the factories.


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