Progress made on renewal of live trade with Egypt as exporters target lift in shipments to North Africa

Farmers have hit out at comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying he is trying to reduce red meat in his diet for environmental and health reasons. Stock photo
Farmers have hit out at comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying he is trying to reduce red meat in his diet for environmental and health reasons. Stock photo

Declan O'Brien and Ciaran Moran

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed , has welcomed the progress made on live exports during the Enterprise Ireland Trade Mission to Egypt.

A renewal of live trade with Egypt moved a step closer today as the issues around existing health certificates for Irish exports were discussed at a meeting in Cairo between Minister of State Pat Breen and Deputy Minister for Agriculture Dr Mona Mehrez. 

The Egyptian Ministry is willing to consider amending existing health certificates and putting a new certificate for breeding stock in place.  Further to preparatory work by DAFM, Bord Bia and Sustainable Food Systems Ireland (SFSI), the Egyptian authorities have indicated an interest in re-establishing live imports from Ireland, as well as cooperation in other areas.

It comes as a revision of the veterinary certificate for the shipping of live cattle to Algeria could open the way for increased exports of Irish stock to the North African state.

The current requirement for a 30-day quarantine period for Irish cattle prior to shipping is seriously restricting exports to Algeria, industry sources told the Farming Independent.

With the veterinary certificate under review by Irish and Algerian authorities, exporters are hopeful of some movement on the current restrictions.

It is understood that Algerian buyers are in the market for breeding heifers and heavy bulls, with French exporters supplying much of the stock.

However, with a serious reduction in continental cattle supplies forecast in 2019 as a result of this year's increased slaughter figures, there is real potential for a significant lift in Irish exports.

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A revision of the veterinary certificate would allow both the shipping of heavy cattle for slaughter, as well as forward stores for further feeding.

The live trade to North Africa has been seriously disrupted by political uncertainty in Egypt and the ongoing civil war in Libya.

However, cattle exports to Libya are set to resume in the coming weeks, with a shipload of 400-460kg bulls due to depart from Cork.

Meanwhile, ICMSA livestock chair Des Morrison told the association's AGM last week that a contract for the export of 8,000 breeding heifers to Kazakhstan was lost recently due to stronger Australian supports for exports.


Mr Morrison said increased live exports offered "the simplest solution" to the current crisis in the Irish beef sector.

He said opening up new outlets for live cattle would add €100 to weanling prices.

Staying with sucklers, David Quinn of Carnew Mart in Wicklow said the flight of farmers from the enterprise was continuing in the south-east. Mr Quinn said he had recently handled the sale of eight to 10 suckler herds in the south Wicklow and north Wexford areas, with four going under the hammer in one week. Three of these herds were large operations, he added.

The number of in-calf suckler cows sold through Carnew Mart was well up this year, Mr Quinn said, with around 30pc being bought for slaughter.

Jim Bushe of New Ross Mart said efforts to save the suckler herd in the south-east were "too late".

He said "men are walking away from suckling" and the additional supports announced in the Budget were not going to persuade them to stay.

"As a man said to me in the mart, 'what good is €40 to keep a suckler cow for the year, sure a packet of cigarettes is nearly €15'," Mr Bushe added.

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