Cattle exports to NI rose from 34,000 in 2019 to 64,000 in 2020

The number of cattle exported from the Republic to Northern Ireland in 2020 rose to 64,000 compared to 34,000 in 2019.

Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture last week a number of questions in relation to live exports, including the current situation for live cattle and sheep exports to the UK and new restrictions in place post-Brexit.

“I can clarify that trade with Northern Ireland can continue as heretofore, subject to the same rules as applied in 2020,” the minister said.

“Trade between Ireland and Great Britain has, however, been impacted; on following the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1, when the UK adopted its own legislation.

The department has carried out a significant amount of work to substantially mitigate any impact on trade associated with these issues. My department has now approved 176 UK vehicles, over 500 drivers and 76 transporters. Staff are working at full capacity and extra resources have been assigned to this area.

“Further differences which impose additional challenges in trade with GB include a 40-day residency requirement prior to the export of cattle and sheep; animals also cannot have passed through a market but must be consigned directly from farm of origin or through an assembly centre.”

Cattle exports ‘rose significantly’

2.4% of Ireland’s cattle exports and less than 1% of sheep exports went to GB in 2020.

“Despite these relatively low numbers, the department is committed to supporting this trade outlet. There is a tradition of high value breeding cattle and sheep sold each year from Ireland to buyers in GB,” the minister added.

Cattle exports to Northern Ireland rose significantly in 2020 – reaching 64,000 from 34,000 in 2019.

“This may, in some way, reflect a reduced export market to Europe generally last year, due to reduced demand as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with overall reduction of some 35,000 bovines from the 2019 figure,” the minister said.

“Market prospects are still uncertain for 2021 as demand will depend on level of confidence amongst European buyers in the anticipated progress of Covid-19 vaccination in Europe and return to dining out.”

The number of live cattle exported to the UK (including Northern Ireland) in 2020 was 70,598 – however, the department said that 2020 figures are not yet finalised. The number of cattle exported in 2019 was 39,151.

The total number of live sheep exported to the UK in 2020 was 295, and in 2019 the figure was 312.