Cherbourg lairage owners ‘willing to expand’ – Burke

The owners of the two lairage facilities at the French port of Cherbourg are considering further expansion of their premises to take on increased numbers of calves, according to Joe Burke senior manager of meat and livestock at Bord Bia.

Speaking on the latest episode of FarmLand, Burke stipulated that these plans were dependent on funding from the European Union.

“They have indicated in discussions that they would be willing to look at further expansion. But historically, in the past, and even within the last decade, there would have been funding or some subsidisation available from European programmes,” Burke explained.

Their preference would be to avail of any potential funding that might be available. Obviously, it would be linked to having high-quality facilities and continuing to look after the welfare of the animals.

However, Burke outlined that: “Currently there are no such support funding mechanisms available. That is obviously something they are pushing for, but it would be great if some additional capacity could be made available – if it’s not going to happen this year – then for next spring.”

He also acknowledged that the recent announcement by Minister Michael Creed – that space for an additional 400 calves had been made available – is an “improvement”, but he noted that a demand remained for more space.

“Exporters would still prefer some additional capacity. There would be a demand during this peak availability period for higher numbers than that. Certainly exporters would argue that they would be able to send out higher numbers than they are currently doing,” said Burke.

Abbeville

Speaking about the lairage facilities in the town of Abbeville, further to the east of France – which has often been touted as a possible additional lairage space for calves that arrive in Cherbourg – Burke seemed to rule it out as a workable solution.

“Once the animals arrive at their port of destination, under the EU regulation, they have to be lairaged in the immediate vicinity of that port,” he explained, adding: “While there is some flexibility – and obviously practical conditions have to prevail – Abbeville is almost 300km from Cherbourg, so it’s a journey of up to four hours.”

“It just goes a bit too far outside of that guideline,” added Burke.

‘Walk-on, walk-off’

Addressing the issue of a ‘walk-on, walk-off’ vessel that could be made available by the Purcell Brothers export firm, Burke said: “It’s a possible solution, but currently the exporters’ preference would be to continue exporting in the way they have been doing.”

“Talking to some of [the exporters], they feel that it would be a bit more difficult logistically to manage the loading of the calves on to a walk-on, walk-off vessel, then unloading them and putting them on to a different truck,” Burke claimed.