An additional 96,734 French cattle were imported into Italy during the first 11 months of 2016, official figures show.

And according to Bord Bia, overall imports of live cattle to the Mediterranean state for the first 11 months of 2016 showed a considerable recovery in trade levels when compared to the previous year.

Import volumes increased by 10.4% or 99,000 head on the year before levels, it says, with additional supplies from France accounting for the majority of this increase.

French exports to Turkey, which previously stood at 120,000 cattle, were significantly restricted due to persistent outbreaks of Bluetongue, resulting in a greater French focus on the Italian market.

As a result, French exporters were able to supply weanlings onto the Italian market very competitively, which in turn lead to a fall off in the number of cattle imported into Italy from many other countries such as the Republic of Ireland.

The majority of exporting countries, with the exception of Germany, Spain and Lithuania, seen the number of cattle shipped to Italy decline when compared to the year before.

Irish exports to Italy, having started off the year reasonably strongly, fell back over the summer and autumn months, it says.

For the year as a whole, these exports reached just 18,500 head, which was 25% or almost 6,500 lower than 2015 levels.

This was the lowest total since 2003, and contrasts with 2010, when 71,000 head were exported: the highest of recent years.

Italians eat less beef

Figures from Bord Bia also show that during the second half of 2016, the Italian beef sector recorded further declines in consumption.

Recent data shows that consumer purchases of beef fell by 3% in volume and 5% in terms of value, meaning that Italians are buying less beef and at lower prices.

However, annual beef production was maintained at a similar level to 2015, while finished cattle prices declined by 2-3% during 2016.