Live trade of cattle to the UK is open for business, according to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, and are up 25% on last year.

The Minister was responding to parliamentary question tabled by former Fine Gael Agriculture Spokesman Denis Naughten on steps he is taking to open up the live export cattle trade to the UK.

He said: “The reality is that the live trade to the UK is open for business as shown by the data generated by my Department’s AIM database. In fact, total live exports to the UK for the year to date have reached 19,000 head, an increase of some 3,800 head or 25% up on the comparable period in 2013. Live exports to Northern Ireland, which account for the vast majority of the UK live trade, amounted to over 14,000 head up to week 17 (w/c 27 April), which represents an increase of 1,700 head or 14% on the 2013 figure. Most of the Northern trade consists of stores and finished cattle.”

However, the Minister did concede that the potential to grow the live trade to the UK is constrained by the buying specifications operated by the British retail chains in relation to cattle born in this country and exported live for finishing and processing in that market.

He said: “The retailers’ longstanding policy is to market British and Irish beef separately. This means that beef must be sourced from animals originating in one country; i.e. born, reared and slaughtered in the same country. In addition, logistical difficulties arise when a small number of Irish-born animals are slaughtered in a UK meat plant. Under mandatory EU labelling rules, these carcases have to be deboned in a separate batch, packaged and labelled accordingly, thereby incurring additional costs for the processor.

“While Bord Bia has repeatedly raised this issue with British retailers over the years, they are unlikely to reverse their marketing policy in the short term. Nevertheless Bord Bia, in its ongoing interactions with British customers, will continue to pursue all opportunities to maximise the full potential of the beef and livestock trade with our largest trading partner.”