Farm Ireland
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Thursday 16 August 2018

Processors alarmed by British plan to ban live exports

British Environment Secretary Michael Gove Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
British Environment Secretary Michael Gove Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) and Meat Industry Ireland (MII) have expressed serious concern at the possibility of a total ban on live exports from the UK.

Such a move, if accepted, would shut down live exports to and from Northern Ireland.

UK environment secretary, Michael Gove, launched a consultation into a ban on the live export of animals for slaughter after Brexit and called on industry experts and campaigners to submit evidence.

The impact of such a move for farmers and processors on either side of the Border could be seriously damaging, the MII and UFU have claimed.

MII pointed out that on average 370,000 sheep and lambs from Northern Ireland are processed in the South each year, around 13pc of the Republic's total kill, while 450,000 Southern pigs are slaughtered in the North.

"Clearly, a curtailment of the movement of sheep from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland would have serious implications in terms of the efficiency of processing plant operations in the South," Cormac Healy of MII said.

He claimed that processors' ability to service export business would be impacted and this could have job loss implications. Similarly, Mr Healy insisted that any restrictions on the export of live pigs to the North could be hugely disruptive to the sector and could create havoc.

"If these exports stop suddenly there would be major issue in slaughtering, processing and marketing these pigs from Republic of Ireland plants in the short-term," he said.

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"This would lead to significant on-farm issues with back-up of pigs and associated welfare issues.

"Planned Investment would be needed in southern plants to ensure the necessary chills, cutting plant and storage capacity is there."

UFU president, Barclay Bell said the overwhelming view from northern farmers was that introducing more controls would be extremely damaging for the cattle and sheep sector in Northern Ireland.

Free trade

Over 50,000 cattle and 500,000 sheep are exported live from Northern Ireland each year for further production or slaughter in other regions of the UK and to EU member states such as the Republic of Ireland and Spain.

"The fact that the vast majority of animals exported go to the Republic of Ireland and Spain demonstrates how reliant Northern Ireland is on competitive and uninterrupted free trade with EU member states," Mr Bell said.

"As long as these animals are being moved in accordance with regulations based on sound science, it is our view that this trade must continue. This is essential to ensure that there is fair competition for livestock and so that livestock farmers can get the best return for their animals."

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