There is scope to increase the amount of sheep exported from Ireland by live export means, according to the ICSA’s John Brooks.

Last year, he said, some 40,000 Irish sheep were sold out of the country by live export means.

“Exporters tell us that we are only scratching the surface of the market and it is not being fully utilised,” he said at a recent Gain Feeds Sheep Information evening.

Brooks, the current Sheep Chairman with the ICSA, said a coordinated effort is needed between the stakeholders, including Bord Bia and shippers to ensure that these avenue is fully utilised.

“Live shipping at certain times of the year is very lucrative,” he said, and there is huge potential for live exports of lamb into Europe and further afield.

If we can build that market up to three or four times current levels, and the potential is there, it would put pressure on meat plants and it would drive on the price of lamb.

However, the Roscommon-based sheep and beef farmer did say that the standstill period, which requires sheep to undergo a quarantine period prior to export, is having a negative impact on the trade.

“We have met with the Department of Agriculture and the European Commissioner to try and resolve this issue,” he said.

Export markets

Speaking earlier this year, Bord Bia’s Declan Fennell said religious festivals such as Ramadan and EID, are key drivers of sheepmeat consumption in the Middle East.

“Probably the one thing that does drive consumption in the Middle East is religious festivals such as the Ramadan and EID festivities.”

In 2016, if you look at our live exports, they stood at about 48,000 head, which is almost a 50% increase on the previous year’s 32,000 head.

“75% of those exports happen in one month, the month of August which is a month ahead of the EID festival. So it significantly impacts in terms of live exports,” he said.