Could Ireland potentially tap into Morocco’s €40m heifer import market?

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, along with Bord Bia’s Aidan Cotter are currently spearheading an Irish trade mission to Morocco.

Yesterday, the delegation heard that the North African country has ambitious plans to increase output from its national dairy herd.

Under the Government’s ‘Green Morocco’ plan, the country plans to increase its national milk production from 2.4 billion litres to 4 billion litres over the next four years – an increase of 66%.

Starting from a relatively low base, officials from the Moroccan Department explained that it intends to do so through genetic improvement and upskilling of farmers.

Plans to import 20,000 heifers annually

One of the key targets of the ‘Green Morocco’ plan is to improve the average yield of the Moroccan dairy herd from 3,500L/cow to 4,500L/cow.

Currently, the national herd of 3m head consists of dairy and native breed crosses, while Holstein Friesian making up 20% of the total herd.

To achieve this target, the Government plans to import 20,000 Holstein heifers on an annual basis, with the majority sourced from Holland, Germany and France.

However, given that Moroccan authorities are willing to spend between €2,000-2,200 to secure in-calf heifers, a total budget of over €40m, it could possibly become an attractive market for Irish exporters.

To encourage more imports of in-calf dairy heifers, the Government has also removed the import tariffs on such imported stock, as long as they are three months in-calf at the time of export.

Non-pregnant heifers are subject to 2.5% tariff, while live beef animals or weanlings are subject to a 25% tariff.

Along with being three-moths pregnant at the time of export, another key desire of the authorities is to import a heifer capable of producing 5,500L of milk in her first lactation.

66% increase in milk – but where will it go?

The Moroccan authorities also explained that the country is close to peak milk capacity, with farmers capable of producing over 95% of the market requirements.

The average adult consumes approximately 70kg of dairy products on an annual basis, but to ensure that supply matches demand, the Government aims to see dairy consumption rise to 90kg head by 2020.

Presently, the majority of milk produced in Morocco is consumed as fresh or liquid milk, but in the coming years, the Government has plans to diversify further into the cheese and yogurt markets.