Tapping into Turkish delight
Minister urged to pursue the potential on offer in foreign markets to boost the price of our traditional weanling
A more concentrated effort at political level to get bilateral trade talks going to secure more outlets for live exports has been called for as the autumn weanling trade approaches the seasonal peak.
ICMSA beef chairman Michael Guinan has predicted that "the trade for weanlings this autumn should remain strong" and he urged farmers to "ignore comments from individuals who seem intent in dampening the trade for their own reasons".
However, calf registration figures show that births in 2016 have increased by 69,000hd in dairy herds and a further 21,000 in beef, when compared to 2015. Taken with a pronounced drop in calf exports this year - down almost 14,000 on last year at 71,033 compared to 84,743 in 2015 - there should be a substantial increase in the number of weanlings at the sales over the coming weeks.
He said certain things can be done to improve the trade further and increasing live exports to North Africa and Turkey should top the list, with the specification requirements in Turkey a particular problem for Irish traditional weanlings.
"There is some activity around the Turkish market but the specs there are too light and too small to really benefit Ireland and to ensure that the trade would take significant numbers. They're getting their heavier weanlings from South America and this is an issue the Minister for Agriculture should pursue with Turkey because that's really the market that would further boost the price of our traditional weanling," he said. "Without being overly-critical of the agencies involved, we do need to see a more concentrated effort to get these bilateral trade talks going: there are serious numbers going from certainly France to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, but we're still without any significant penetration in those markets and we need to know why," he added.
Mr Guinan said the situation needs to change because it is good to have markets opening "but we have to get the marketing and negotiating personnel there to turn the potential into better prices. Otherwise, what's the point?". He said: "The weanling producer has incurred very significant costs in bringing their animals to the marketplace and they need the maximum possible return to stay in this business" and a weak market will not sustain their future.
Martin Ryan, Mid Tipperary Mart, Thurles, said that without the strong farmer demand currently at the weanling sales, the trade would be very poor.
"We are seeing very little export interest. The trade is being driven by the farmer customers who are buying the good weanlings at €2.20-€3.30/kg for the bulls and up to €3/kg is being paid for the tops in the lighter weights in particular," he said. "With the cost of producing the good weanlings, producers are working on a very tight margin when the cost of keeping the suckler cow is taken into account. Without a good live export trade, there will be more pressure on prices when the bigger numbers come out at the peak of the season," he added.