The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) livestock committee chairperson Brendan Golden has said the retention of Ireland’s main EU live export markets “will be critical” going forward.

In his review of live exports in 2021 and his outlook for 2022, Golden said: “There was a total of 239,847 live cattle exported out of Ireland for the first 47 weeks of 2021, which represents a decline of 4.4% in the same period in 2020.

“Over recent weeks, the number of cattle exported are dominated by movements of store and finished animals to Northern Ireland.”

Commenting on the surge in demand for live Irish cattle from buyers in Northern Ireland, Golden said: “Northern Ireland has experienced a strong increase in cattle imports from the Republic of Ireland since the beginning of the year, accounting for almost 30% of total exports, and reaching over 68,000 head of cattle.

“Almost 30% higher than the same period in 2020,” the IFA livestock chair outlined.

“This is a key market for farmers as it provides much-needed competition to factories for forward store and finished cattle.”

Continuing, Brendan Golden said that the IFA “strongly supports live exports“.

He said: “The EU must ensure Irish farmers are provided with the same level of access to the single market as all other EU countries.”

Furthermore, he noted that Ireland must not be placed at an unfair disadvantage because of its island status.

“Recognition of the unique island status of Ireland and the obligation on the EU to ensure we maintain unfettered access to the single market for live exports is critical,” he said.

Concluding, the IFA livestock chair said: “Maintaining a strong live export trade is vital for beef farmers in providing competition to factories and in ensuring production levels on farms are not impacted by commitments on climate targets going forward.”