Sector manager for sheepmeat and live exports with Bord Bia, Seamus McMenamin, has warned that Ireland must introduce an infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR) control programme if we are to protect our ability to export calves to the Netherlands.

Speaking on the latest episode of Farmland, McMenamin said that the country, which is a key market for Irish calf exports, is planning to follow Belgium and France in the implementation of a programme to eradicate IBR.

Ireland now needs to act to future-proof our export ability as the Netherlands plans to have policies in place by 2025, according to McMenamin.

Under such policies, calves cannot be imported from countries that do not have an IBR control programme in place. While many Irish beef and dairy farmers vaccinate cattle against the disease, Ireland is not operating a government-led programme.

“We’ve seen France and Belgium in recent times bring in their IBR eradication programmes, which means they can’t accept calves from countries that don’t have an IBR programmes in place, which we currently don’t have,” McMenamin said.

Seamus McMenamin said implementing an IBR control programme is essential to protect Irish exports to the Netherlands
Seamus McMenamin of Bord Bia

While France and Belgium were not significant importers of Irish calves, it is feared that the implementation of these programmes may become a trend throughout Europe, cutting off more important markets for Ireland. McMenamin said:

“Further down the line, it will become an issue in other markets. In the Dutch market, for example, who are due to implement an IBR free programme.

We’re going to have to do something to keep these market options open to us and look into getting an IBR programme in place if we want to continue to export calves to these countries,” said McMenamin.

McMenamin said there has been good demand from key markets including Spain and the Netherlands this year, with approximately 17,000 calves exported by the end of February, proving the importance of protecting access to these countries.

New markets

Speaking about emerging markets for Ireland, McMenamin mentioned a number of possibilities in North Africa.

“Morocco, Algeria, Libya and we also had a trade mission from Israel late last year, so we’re hoping to get access there too,” McMenamin said.

He added that Bord Bia has a visit to Morocco planned for May, where it will aim to promote Irish exports and bring buyers back home.

“That’s one key market where there’s good demand, particularly for dairy origin and beef, both Angus and Friesian.”

However, ambiguity still remains around accessing the Chinese market once again. The country banned Irish beef imports in May 2020 following an atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case in a dead cow in Co. Tipperary.

Since the discovery, Ireland has been granted negligible risk status for BSE by the World Animal Health Organisation. Despite this, Irish beef exports to China have not been allowed to resume. McMenamin said:

“At the minute I’ve heard nothing about where we are in that process. We’re hoping it’s not far away. When you see Brazil going out and then back in again, you’d be hopeful that we would get our access back again soon.”

Farmland is produced by Agriland Media Group and is available every second Tuesday from 7:00p.m on the Agriland platform and as a podcast on all the usual podcast platforms.

This week’s episode can be viewed here.