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Dutch rules threaten calf trade


Seamus Scallan, Wicklow Cattle Company

Seamus Scallan, Wicklow Cattle Company

Seamus Scallan, Wicklow Cattle Company

Movement restrictions being imposed on Irish-born calves by Holland "seriously threatening the future of the trade", according to one of the leading Irish live exporters.

Wicklow Cattle Company boss, Seamus Scallan has called for immediate Government intervention to prevent the "collapse" of the live export trade for calves.

He demanded a level playing field within EU for Irish exporters.

"A lot of farmers are not aware of what is happening. I'm frightened that there is worse coming that will totally destroy the trade," he stressed.

Mr Scallan said that Irish exporters comply with the highest animal welfare regulations in the EU and the Agriculture Department have a good code of practice but "the Dutch are now operating their own rules" which will wreck the Irish trade.

"Under EU rules the calves are entitled to go to a resting point, stop for 12 hours, and legally drive for a further nine hours. The Dutch authorities are now insisting on a second stop - which is not an EU legal requirement - I can travel to Spain and don't have to stop - why is that?

"There is a different interpretation of the EU rules in Holland. If we are found in breach (of the Dutch imposed rules) there are heavy penalties - we cannot afford to pay on tight margins," he said.

Mr Scallan said they can only go to one "address in Holland" with a load as the Dutch have raised concerns about the TB status of the Irish calves and won't allow the truck to deliver to two addresses as previously was routine practice.

"The 'starter' market was a good trade for Irish calves. The calves were reared for up to 12 weeks in Holland and moved on to Spain. The Irish calves are now not allowed to leave the farms in Holland unless they are going to slaughter while calves coming from other countries can move on.

"Irish calves are being traded as second class because of TB status," he said adding it was "frightening the buyers".

Mr Scallan said exporters have highlighted the problem but nothing is being done about it.

The department figures show live cattle exports up to March 12 stood at 30,881, including 19,431 calves, up 5,776 or 23pc on the same period last year. It puts live cattle exports to Holland at 7,478 this year, up from 4,906 last year.

Another Irish exporter, who asked not to be identified, claimed exports had fallen "to about half of 2015" and he was targeting Spain more often due to the transport regulations.

John Humphreys from Cork Marts, large exporters of Irish calves, said that weather difficulties caused the cancellation of at least one shipping per week through February and March while the requirement for an additional stop has added €4-€5/head to the export costs.

The opening of the Turkish market for live exports has also received a guarded welcome from farmers and exporters.

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