Co-ordinated drive on live exports needed – ICMSA

No solution to the imminent fodder crisis will be possible without an intensive and co-ordinated drive on live exports, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

Commenting on the issue, ICMSA Livestock Committee chairman Des Morrison said that the rationale was simple.

He said: “Even with a substantial fodder importation effort, we will struggle to feed our animals this winter and increasing live exports would substantially ease the pressure on farmers.

That means getting animals out of our yards and out of the country as quickly as possible.

“That’s a reality we need to stress against a background where most farmers seem to think that the live exports trade is ‘tipping away’ when, once you take out the calve trade, all the figures are back on last year.

Figures back on last year

“Anyone who has attended a mart recently will have noted the lack of exporters despite the fact that cattle prices have been competitive.”

Morrison noted that the figures for weanlings, stores and finished cattle for this year-to-date all showed often substantial reductions on the 2017 figures.

Even allowing for the recent sharp downturn in the prospects for the Turkish market due to its currency’s falls, the chairman said there has to be viable markets for live exports that are not being investigated and pursued with the energy that is required.

Morrison added that a special Live Exports Unit should be established by the department.

This would bring together department officials, livestock exporters, farm organisations, shipping companies and Bord Bia with a focus on identifying, exploring and getting into both new markets and expanding the Irish share of existing markets, he said.

“We should have done this well before 2018 but in the context of where we are now and what we’re likely to be faced with at the back end and into 2019, the decision has effectively been made for us and we can delay no longer,” Morrison concluded.