More than 7,424 cattle and almost 22,000 lambs have been shipped to Libya this year. This is according to the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) this afternoon. In addition it is calling for stable beef prices and strong live exports, which it says is key for the store and weanling trade as autumn approaches.

Libya was a valuable market for Irish live cattle exports in the past, taking 81,420 cattle valued at more than €70m in 1995. However, in 1996 Libya banned beef imports from the EU because of the BSE outbreak. Its ban was lifted earlier this year and trade with Ireland once again commence after a 17-year gap.

According to an update from IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns, a critical issue is that beef prices stabilise in the coming weeks so feeders will have the confidence to buy cattle and feed, he said.

“Feeders will be slow if the see factories continuing to pull back prices. The excessive and unjustified price cuts of recent weeks seriously damages confidence in the sector. Feeders need certainty and stability from the factories on prices.”

Burns said the store and weaning price has taken a big hit from last year, which is a major problem for the incomes of hard pressed-suckler farmers. He said the lift in prices in the last week was encouraging and badly needed.

“With a good burst in grass growth, demand will lift the trade. “

The combination of significantly cheaper feed costs this year and a settling of the EU beef price should help lift the live trade for weanlings and stores for the second half of the year, noted Burns.

According to the IFA, to date this year live exports are up 74 per cent at 142,842 head. The big increases have come in calves exports, up more than 50,000 head on last year with large increases to the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and France.

Weaning exports to Italy are back at 13,560 head but are expected to rise for the Autumn. The store trade to Northern Ireland is also back as a result of the strength of sterling and changes following the horsemeat scandal. However to date this year 21,317 cattle have gone North and a further 5,719 cattle have gone across the water to Great Britain, it found.

“The IFA is continuing to work hard on opening up the live trade to the UK with recent positive meetings with ferry companies, exporters and UK buyers. With the UK beef price at the equivalent of €4.90/kg, there is massive demand and huge potential for the live trade to the UK,” Burns said.

More than 7,424 cattle and almost 22,000 lambs have been shipped to Libya this year. Exports to Tunisia have also being active with 2,322 cattle shipped to date this year.

“IFA were continuing to work hard to attract more exporters and get more ships cleared for export. The Department of Agriculture had cleared a number of ships and more applications are being actively considered,” he concluded.