Uncertain future for Irish cattle exports to Turkey

Since the market opened, over 30,000 Irish cattle have left Irish shores for Turkey. Its importance to the Irish suckler industry cannot be underestimated.

Furthermore, a number of shipments of Irish cattle, including both bulls and heifers, are expected to leave for the Middle Eastern market in the coming weeks.

Next week, for example, two consignments of Irish cattle are set to be loaded for Turkey – consisting of 4,800 head.

A further two boats, each scheduled to carry 3,000 weanlings bulls, will leave Irish shores for Turkey in September. This will bring the total number of Irish cattle exported to Turkey to over 42,000 head – the weekly kill equivalent of 1.4 weeks’ worth of cattle.

However, a move by Turkish authorities could have a negative impact on the number of Irish cattle being exported to that country in the near future.

Last week, the Turkish Minister for Agriculture, Ahmet Esref Fakibaba, moved to formalise an agreement that would clear the way for private Turkish companies to import young bulls from South America.

Previously, ESK – Turkey’s Meat and Milk Board – handled imports of young bulls from both South America and Europe. This was particularly attractive to exporters, from both countries, as payments were essentially guaranteed by the Turkish government.

However, the move now means that ESK will only handle exports of young bulls from Europe; this has caused concerns for exporters operating here in Ireland.

A prominent Irish exporter raised concerns with AgriLand that the move would see Turkish importers prioritise cattle sourced from South America – simply due to the large numbers available for export at any one time.

The main Turkish buyers, he added, will be able to import upwards of 20,000 cattle from South America in a single shipment if they wish to do so – a factor that is said to be a major plus for the Turkish importers involved.

Given the uncertainty facing the market, AgriLand understands that Irish exporters will cease buying cattle for Turkey once their current contracts have been fulfilled.

Worryingly, these contracts are set to come to an end just before peak weanling sales kick into gear here in Ireland.

And, without the presence of Turkish exporters at the ringside during October and November, the Irish weanling trade looks set to suffer as a result.

Despite these developments, there is still some scope for Irish cattle to continue to be exported to Turkey. Alas, there is a fear that these exports will not feature as prominently as they have done over the last 11 months.

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