Irish live sheep exports almost doubled in 2013, to approach 70,000 head.
Seventy percent of this trade went to the EU, with Germany, Italy and France the core markets.
But Libya in North Africa emerged as a new market, taking 21,400 live sheep from Ireland in 2013, mostly culled ewes for immediate slaughter, with demand highest around the Muslim festivals such as Ramadan.
In the last two years, there has been a major shift in trade, with EU live exports to Turkey almost ceasing, and Libyan demand surging since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011.
In 2009, almost 29,000 live EU sheep were exported into Libya; this compares to 845,000 head in the January-August period of 2013.
However, with a reduction in oil exports, the Libyan economy is undergoing severe pressure to curb current spending and public sector employment, which may impact on the sheep trade.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved