Live cattle exports to new markets such as Turkey are “so important” because “we need to plan for the rest of the year to ensure that we do not have beef price problems later in the year on foot of an increasing herd”, said outgoing Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney last week.
Speaking in the Dáil, he revealed a Turkish delegation is due in Ireland next week to consider the potential opportunities for live exports.
Mr Coveney said it is “a massive live export opportunity as long as we can do it properly, ensure the standards are right, and that we develop the kind of commercial relationships that can be the basis of a lasting and very important outlet for a growing suckler herd”.
He also confirmed that the department is working with various groups on establishment of a framework for producer organisations in the beef sector.
“We are going to set up a much more professional relationship where farmer-owned producer organisations have the legal entitlement to negotiate on price, quality and a range of issues concerned to get a better deal for farmers.
"That approach has worked in other countries and it will work here too.”
“We will create an exciting niche market for Irish beef in the US market,” said Mr Coveney, who has since been made housing minister.
On securing access to the Chinese market for Irish beef, he said the report of a Chinese delegation’s inspection visit to Ireland in January is awaited, and preparatory work has commenced to help facilitate a follow-up visit, which we hope will take place later this year.
n However, non-delivery on beef expectations was also highlighted in last week’s Dáil debate on agriculture, with Sligo–Leitrim Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry saying not one animal has been exported live yet to Egypt, following agreement on a live export certificate in February.
Mr MacSharry attributed the exports hold-up to “marine issues”.
“In respect of live shipping, from my own inquiries, I know there is a market for in-calf heifers in the Moroccan market, but we cannot export there.
"There is the marine issue about which I spoke, but there is also the issue of veterinary health certification.”
He said Ireland is not interested in exporting to Russia, although France, Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark have done bilateral deals to gain access for their 90 VL, visual lean, and 70 VL product.
“We need to be more proactive. If the big boys have bilateral deals, then ‘Goody Two Shoes’ is not the rightful place of the Irish farming community.”
He said BSE-era restrictions on the import of Irish beef are prohibitive.
“Great Britain, which arguably had a far more difficult and severe issue with BSE, has less prohibitive veterinary health certification in respect of exporting to other countries.
Mr MacSharry also called for regulations to underpin Article 39b of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which states that farmers are entitled to a fair price for their produce.
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