Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

Shippers assessing North Africa options

Beef price surge helping export plans

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

At least two Irish cattle exporters are assessing the viability of reopening the live trade to North Africa.

While concrete proposals are not in place, it is believed the shippers have identified potential outlets in the region for plainer quality stock.

Last week Tunisia confirmed it was willing to reopen its market to Irish beef.

Vets from Morocco also visited Ireland recently. They were primarily concerned with beef imports, but the possibility of taking live stock is understood to have been raised.

Getting a boat approved for the trade could be difficult as EU rules governing the standard of vessel allowed for live shipping of cattle are strictly enforced by Department of Agriculture vets.

The Department said an official application for boat approval had not been received.

"The Department has not had an application for any vessel interested in being authorised to transport live animals to Africa," a statement read.

"There is a strict process of inspection and trial voyages before the authorisation is granted, so even if we did receive an application, it would take some time before it was able to commence transporting."

Also Read

Work will also be needed on the veterinary front as health certification is required for both Egypt and Libya.

A major surge in world beef prices has brought Ireland back into the frame with other suppliers of the North African market.

The vast majority of the cattle supplies for the region are currently sourced from South America, but with beef prices having strengthened significantly, and shipping costs from South American countries substantially higher than from Ireland, Irish exporters are in a position to compete for the business.

Beef prices in Argentina have jumped 53pc to 204c/kg over the last few months, while Uruguayan cattle prices are 13pc stronger at 175c/kg.

"The North African trade would work on paper at the moment, but that's not to say it will get going," one industry source said.

Reopening shipping would give a serious boost to the beef sector. It would take Friesian, Holstein and other dairy-cross cattle out of the supply chain and put a floor on prices in the process.

Historically, Egypt and Libya were major outlets for Irish cattle. In 1990, 43,000hd were shipped live to Libya.

Irish exporters shipped 253,000hd to Egypt in 1994, but this figure had fallen to 106,000hd by 1996.

The trade collapsed in the wake of the BSE crisis.

Irish Independent