Farm Ireland

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Renewed calf trade lifts live cattle exports

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Live cattle exports have jumped by 75pc during the first six months of the year according to Department of Agriculture figures.

Total exports up to the middle of June have hit 135,500 head, compared to just over 78,000 during the same period in 2012.

The bounce in trade brings levels back on par with 2011, according to Bord Bia's beef analyst, Joe Burke.

However, calves account for the majority of the increase. At 85,700 head, they are 150pc more than last year's total.

These were sold mainly to the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and France.


Exports of weanlings and stores are up by 33pc on last year, primarily as a result of shipments to non-EU markets such as Libya, Tunisia and Morocco.

"People originally hoped that Libya would become an important destination for Holstein-Friesian bulls from Ireland," said Mr Burke.

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"However, it seems that customers there are more interested in beef-cross animals.

"The preferred weights are 320-420kg with a reasonable covering of flesh."

Exports of finished cattle, mainly to Northern Ireland, have fallen by 15pc.

"This is largely because of the strong prices being paid by Irish meat plants which means cattle are less competitive for export," commented Mr Burke.

He added that there was also a preference for beef that was either British or Irish.

"This avoids labels that read 'Born in ROI, Reared in ROI/UK, Slaughtered in UK', which most retailers don't like," he said.

"If anything, supply chains are going to shorten further in the wake of the horsemeat issue."

However, new export opportunities may open up for Irish beef if moves by the European Parliament to pressurise Norway into lifting import duties on beef imports succeed.

MEPs urged the EU Commission to retaliate if Norway does not reverse its recently increased tariffs on EU beef imports.

The parliamentarians were particularly upset that the tariffs were increased to 344pc after a free trade deal was struck between the EU and Norway on food last year.

Irish exporters stand to gain most from the opening up of Norway's markets to increased meat imports.

Over the last decade, sales of Irish beef to Scandinavia have doubled to nearly 40,000t a year, according to Mr Burke.

"Sweden accounts for the vast majority of this, so there is no reason why we wouldn't be able to tap into similar markets in Norway if we got the chance," he said.

"They are an affluent market and a good outlet for both cow and steer beef."

Irish Independent

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