Department should rent Cherbourg lairage space – agriculture committee

At a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine today (February 12), members heard that Ireland should consider renting lairage space in the French port of Cherbourg.

Addressing the meeting, a representative for the Irish Co-Operative Organisation Society (ICOS) said that the issue of lairage capacity for calves at Cherbourg was a “national interest issue” for Ireland.

Ray Doyle, the group’s livestock services executive, argued that the solution to the lack of space for animals to disembark from lorries in France would have to be worked on by authorities here.

I believe it’s a national interest issue, and if the Department [of Agriculture, Food and the Marine] could, in simple terms, rent a lairage, or even large areas of sheds – that would be able to ensure that these animals have disembarked from the trucks – it would be more than adequate for this particular issue.

Doyle also explained that the necessary holding area in Cherbourg is merely a “disembarkation lairage”.

“It is merely just a shed that the animals need to exit the truck, be fed, watered and able to rest for 12 hours, before being put back on the truck,” he said.

He added: “It’s not a control point, we don’t need to have IT systems, or a rigorous inspection point.”

Doyle argued that exporters shouldn’t expect the solution to come from the French side, as expanding lairage to serve Irish animals would not make economic sense for lairage operators.

This issue is an issue for about six to eight weeks of the year. For the rest of the year there’s no issue, because the capacity of 40,000, albeit low, is more than adequate to soak up the volume of calves there.

“It’s completely understandable from the French man’s point of view who’s running these two lairages; why would he provide a service to Irish farmers for simply six weeks? It’s a business decision,” he claimed.

It’s for that reason, Doyle suggested, that the solution to the lairage issue would have to be an Irish solution.

“We’re going to have to solve it rather than looking abroad to solve it. Even though the problem will be solved on French soil, I think it’s going to be ourselves that’s going to have to solve this issue,” he contended.