Speaking at the Bord Bia Live export seminar in Tullamore this week, IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns said the prospects for the live export trade look positive for 2014 for calves, weanlings and store cattle. He said the live trade has the potential to grow substantially again this year. Henry Burns also announced that the IFA expect developments on a new ferry route to the UK in early 2014.

Henry Burns said the live export trade grew by 31% in 2013, with a total of 209,481 animal exported. Calf exports were up over 50,000 to 90,658, with big increases to the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and France. Weanling and store cattle exports also grew to a total of 70,430 head, while finished cattle exports were slightly back at 48,393 head. Exports of quality weanling to Italy were back 30% or about 10,000 head in 2013. He said the total value of live exports was in excess of €240m.

The IFA Livestock leader said a key feature of the live trade in 2013 was the reopening of the trade to Libya and North Africa for the first time in 16 years. He said IFA pushed very hard to reopen these markets and succeeded in 2013 with over 19,000 cattle exported to international markets.

Prospects look positive in 2014 with exports to Spain and Italy expected to grow, driven by stronger beef prices and a reduction in feed costs. Beef production in Spain is expected to increase driving demand for more live imports and Spanish live exports to North Africa are also expected to grow. Lower grain and feed costs will boost the trade to both Italy and Spain.

Henry Burns said calf exports to Holland have the potential to increase substantially in 2014. He said with the current attack by the factories on bulls from the dairy herd, livestock farmers will not want to get burned again and clearly the best route for these calves is the live export trade. Henry Burns said Ireland has the potential to export 150,000 to 180,000 head of calves in 2014.

Henry Burns said one of the big challenges for 2014 will be to open up the live export trade to the UK. He said Minister Coveney and Bord Bia have to act strongly to break the stranglehold the factories and retailers have on the market and secure free and open access for Irish farmers and exporters. In a very positive development, he said IFA is expecting an announcement on a new ferry route to the UK in early 2014.

The IFA Livestock Leader said the live trade is vitally important for price competition and market outlets across all sections of the livestock trade including calves, weanlings and store cattle. He said the absence of a live trade for finished cattle, particularly to our largest beef export to market to the UK is a major problem that must be addressed with an unacceptable large beef price differential between Irish and UK cattle prices.

IFA National Sheep Chairman James Murphy said the live export trade for sheep was also very positive in 2013 with exports doubling from 35,000 head in 2012 to over 68,000 head in 2013. He said 21,443 lambs were exported to Libya for the very first time in 2013, adding €6 to €8 to the lamb price in the months of June, July and August.

The IFA sheep farmers’ leader said the other main live sheep export markets were Germany (16,137), Italy (11,108) and France (10,964) with very strong demand around the various Muslin festivals. James Murphy said he expects the live export trade for sheep to be strong again in 2014, driven by tighter EU production, lower New Zealand supplies and growing demand around the Muslim festivals.