Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 March 2018

Cork Marts decision could see beef market ‘flooded with underweight carcasses’

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Minister for Agriculture has been called on to take action following the decision by Cork Marts to pull out of the live export of calves.

The issue was discussed in the Seanad this week with Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard stating that the decision means one third of the live export calves that leave Ireland at the moment will now go to different markets.

“Cork Marts exported a third of all Friesian calves last year, mainly Holstein Friesian bull calves which are important to get out of the system.

“They went to markets like Holland and Spain and the decision will have a major effect not only on the dairy industry, and those who produce dairy calves, but the beef industry where we will have the possibility of a major flood of undesirable animals into the market.

“These animals are more important for the veal trade than the beef trade itself.

“How we deal with the surplus is a major question for the industry and it is important that the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine comes to the Chamber within the next two weeks to discuss the issue as a matter of urgency.

“If we do not take action between now and next February it will be too late, as the knock-on effect in two years' time will leave us with a beef market flooded with underweight carcasses which will be hard to sell,” he said.

Decision  ‘irreversible’ says Cork Marts

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The decision of Cork Marts to discontinue the live export of dairy calves is 'irreversible' despite strong criticism of the move from farmers dependent on the trade.

"We will not be reversing the decision. It was a hard decision to take but we could not continue losing money, in a situation which got worse during the past year, we had to take action in the interest of the shareholders and the society", Sean O'Sullivan, CEO, Cork Marts Group said recently. Alarmed farming leaders described the decision as "inconceivable".

However, the board of Cork Marts Group is to meet this week to consider a reduction of commission charges on calf sales for both sellers and buyers to "incentivise" the continuation of the trade.

Cork Marts entered the direct export of calves in 2009 and have been exporting 15,000-20,000 calves per annum, mainly to Holland and Spain.

Bandon continues to be the largest calf mart in the country with weekly throughput of up to 1,800 calves at peak.

"It has always been a very tight margin business and we have always struggled to make it profitable while also supporting our calf sellers.

"The past season was very difficult with further downward pressure on margin and operating costs on an upward curve," O'Sullivan said.

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