Irish cattle exports to Turkey hinge on Bluetongue-free status – Bord Bia

Live cattle exports to Turkey depend on Ireland maintaining its Bluetongue-free status, according to Bord Bia’s Joe Burke.

Turkey’s live cattle market opened to Irish live cattle exports in March, with the middle eastern state expected to import more than 500,000 live cattle this year.

The opening of the Turkish export market was welcomed by farming organisations, but an outbreak of Bluetongue in Ireland could scupper live exports of Irish cattle to Turkey.

Speaking at a livestock seminar in Aughrim, Co. Wicklow, this week the Bord Bia Beef and Livestock Sector Manager said that Ireland’s Bluetongue-free status is one of the main reasons why Turkish buyers are interested in Irish cattle.

“Turkish buyers are looking for 300kg beef-bred bulls under 12 months of age and they are willing to pay for these animals,” he said.

But, he said that a bluetongue outbreak in Ireland could see Turkish buyers lose interest in the Irish market.

Burke also said that if bluetongue spreads to the UK, there is a possibility that the disease would spread to Ireland.

The number of cases of blue tongue continued to increase in France over the winter, partially due to the mild weather.

“There wasn’t much frost and snow to kill the disease and the infection level in France will probably escalate with warmer weather this summer,” he said.

A recent report from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the UK suggested that there was an 80% chance of a blue tongue outbreak in Britain this year.

“We are only a short distance from Britain, if they started getting outbreaks like a few years ago, we would have to think about the possibility of an outbreak here,” Burke said.

The Bord Bia market analyst also said that a bluetongue outbreak in France was the main reason for Turkish importers becoming interested in Irish cattle.

They have turned their back on French supplies, as a result of blue tongue.

Turkey previously imported about 100,000 cattle from France on an annual basis, he said, accounting for almost 25% of Turkey’s live cattle imports.

Exports to Italy look set for a difficult year

Burke also spoke about Irish cattle exports to Italy and how a difficult Italian market combined with the additional French cattle could impact on Ireland.

The Italian market has remained difficult this year, he said, as the average EU beef price is similar to the Irish beef price.

He also said that Irish store buyers are having an effect on the number of cattle exported to Italy, as export buyers are not able to compete with farmers who are purchasing cattle for grass this spring.

“Because France has been restricted from being able to export to Turkey, it looks likely that those animals will be diverted to other markets like Italy.

“It is going to leave the Italian market well supplied, if not saturated with cattle.

“And, this is going to have a negative impact on the market for Irish cattle in Italy later this year,” he said.