Over 16,500 animals have been exported to Britain in 2014, which is an increase of nearly 65% on last year the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said this week.
The Minister said that in recent years Irish exporters wishing to export livestock to Britain were able to avail of roll-on, roll-off ferry services from Belfast or Larne.
However, he said early in 2014 an application was received from a shipping company for approval of a roll-on, roll-off ferry to carry livestock from Rosslare and following an inspection this ferry was approved for carriage of livestock.
The first such consignment to the UK took place in February 2014, and regular consignments of livestock have been carried from Rosslare since then, the Minister said.
According to Minister Coveney the potential to grow the live trade to Britain is impacted 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 or the other; i.e. born, reared and slaughtered in the same country, he said.
In addition, Minister Coveney said logistical difficulties can arise when a small number of Irish-born animals are slaughtered in a UK meat plant.
Under mandatory EU labelling rules, these carcasses have to be deboned in a separate batch, packaged and labelled accordingly, thereby incurring additional costs for the processor.
Minister Coveney said these issues are a matter of commercial preference, both of slaughter plants in Britain, and of British retailers. Decisions by processors and retailers in other member states in relation to purchasing policy are matters of commercial preference, he said.