Live exports will need to treble to deliver 'decent' margin for beef farmers

There is mounting farmer concern that increased cattle numbers will maintain downward pressure on prices over the coming 12 months

Martin Ryan

A three-fold increase in live exports will be required to give beef farmer a decent operating margin this year.

IFA, ICMSA and ICSA have called on Agriculture Minister, Michael Creed to intensify efforts to secure export markets for cattle to ensure "realistic prices" for beef producers.

There is mounting farmer concern that increased cattle numbers will maintain downward pressure on prices over the coming 12 months.

Last week Bord Bia confirmed that cattle supplies were forecast to increase by over 100,000 head in 2017.

A sharp decline in live exports has compounded this problem, with the number of cattle shipped falling from 237,000 head in 2014 to 140,000 in 2016, the lowest level in more than a decade.

IFA president Joe Healy said a major national diplomatic initiative was urgently required to maximise every single market opportunity on live exports in 2017. Markets for up to 400,000 head would be needed he maintained.

"It is clear that there are real opportunities for Ireland in live export markets such as Turkey, North Africa and continental Europe, and all of these must be actively pursued in 2017," he said. He called for the export fees of up to €8/hd on calves to be dropped completely, claiming that it was "unfair" that the same levy applied on an €80 calf as a finished animal worth €1,400.

ICMSA's livestock chairman, Michael Guinan warned that the reopening of Egypt to Irish beef would be "irrelevant' unless it translated into better prices for farmers.

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"It cannot be stressed often enough that announcing new export opportunities is practically pointless unless primary beef producers can see a resultant improvement in their cattle prices," he said.

Meanwhile, ICSA beef chairman, Edmond Phelan, welcomed the opening of the Egyptian market but he reiterated that urgent action was needed on the reopening of the Irish embassy in Iran.

Mr Phelan also called on the Central Bank to take steps to facilitate financial transactions between Ireland and Iran, which were not reinstated after the western embargoes on the Middle Eastern power were lifted.

End of year results for 2016 show that the average price to producers for prime beef, steers and heifers was down 30-35c/kg on 2013, equivalent to €100-130/hd in finished animals.

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