The number of cattle exported from Ireland by live export means during 2016 fell by 18% on the year before, figures from Bord Bia show.

However, Irish cattle exports to both Turkey and Spain were the two positives to take from the market in 2016.

At a recent meeting of industry stakeholders, it was confirmed by Bord Bia that Irish cattle exports reached 147,000 head in 2016.

The fall seen in 2016 follows on from a 55% decline in cattle movements to Northern Ireland, as well as fewer exports to Netherlands (-38%) and Italy (-24%).

On a positive note, it was also shown that exports to Turkey, which began in September, reached almost 20,000 head for the year, while exports to Spain jumped by 26% to reach 36,700 head.

Bord Bia’s Livestock Sector Manager, Joe Burke provided a review of the Irish live cattle trade during 2016 and an outlook for respective markets.

He also confirmed that French exports were highly competitive last year, while the Netherlands remained challenging.

The competition created by French cattle exports had a negative impact on the number of Irish cattle shipped to Italy, as French exporters were extremely competitive on the market.

This occurred as French shippers were restricted from exporting cattle to Turkey due to Bluetongue disease and as a result French-origin weanlings grew in numbers on the Italian market.

Why did cattle exports decline to Northern Ireland?

The number of Irish cattle exported to our nearest exporting region – Northern Ireland – declined by 55% year-on-year during 2016.

Some of it has been put down to fluctuations in the exchange rate, but Northern Irish factories also find it difficult to sell the beef produced from Irish-origin cattle to their customers.

British retailers will accept Irish beef in most cases, but they will not accept beef born in Ireland and slaughtered in Northern Ireland, as it is not acceptable to the majority of their customers.