Further Turkish cattle contracts yet to be set in stone

Irish exporters will be permitted to sell fattening cattle to private-sector buyers in Turkey from May onwards.

A number of Irish exporters accompanied the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, to Turkey last week in an attempt to secure additional contracts and to open the market further to Irish stock.

However, AgriLand understands that no contracts – be they with ESK (the Turkish Meat and Milk Board) or private buyers – have been finalised for fattening cattle.

A leading exporter told AgriLand that, although the green light has been given, no contracts have been finalised between Irish shippers and Turkish buyers for fattening cattle.

The Turkish market has proved particularly important to the Irish beef industry over recent years. Since the first contract was granted, over 51,700 head of cattle have left Irish shores for Turkey.

With additional cattle supplies predicted in 2018, the market – particularly for store cattle – will prove vital in maintaining competition.

According to Bord Bia, some 1,876 head of cattle have been shipped to Turkish shores so far this year. The shipment consisted of 1,331 weanlings and 545 stores.

Recently, IFA (Irish Farmers’ Association) national livestock chairman Angus Woods raised hopes for Irish cattle exports to Turkey this year.

He said: “Based on positive discussions we had with the the Turkish Meat and Milk Board (ESK), it is clear Turkey has an import requirement for 500,000 head of live cattle each year.

Ireland could supply up to 100,000 head of this requirement on an annual basis.

Clarity on calf exports

After a number of weeks of uncertainty, some clarity was restored to the calf export market earlier this week. It has been confirmed that the ferry which is set to replace the Stena Horizon has been given the green light to carry live export trucks.

A source close to the Minister for Agriculture told AgriLand that an inspection of an alternative vessel to the Stena Horizon went well.

The alternative vessel will be available for the transport of livestock from February 20. This is welcome news and comes as a relief to those involved in the trade.

However, issues still remain around the boats capacity; particularly regarding the number of berths that will be available for specialsit livestock carries.

The exportation of calves to markets such as Holland and Spain is seen as a critical mechanism in the Irish beef industry. Figures from Bord Bia indicate that 101,261 calves were exported in 2017 – an increase of 28,653 head on 2016 figures.