9 JANUARY 2018

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has said he is concerned that live exports of sheep fell by over a quarter in 2017, compared to the previous year. Bord Bia figures that show live exports of sheep were down 26% to 35,349 in 2017 compared to 48,036 in 2016. “There is clearly a need to redouble our efforts to ensure this decline is reversed.”

“Farmers need to have the option to ship live as an alternative to dealing only with processors who very often squeeze them to the limit. The live trade is crucial to keep the dead trade honest. To this end, ICSA has been calling for the initiation of a strategic plan to drive the live export trade. Planning would involve the Department of Agriculture, Teagasc, Bord Bia, live exporters and producers all working together in order to develop a coordinated approach to adequately exploit this lucrative market.”

The importance of religious festivals on the sheep trade has also been highlighted by Bord Bia with 81% of Irish live exports in 2017 occurring in the month ahead of Eid al-Adha. Mr Brooks said, “The significance of this cannot be underestimated. Over the next few years the shifting dates of these festivals demonstrates the amount of forward planning required as each year will have different lambing requirements. To maximise the true potential of this market, the planning needs to start now.”

ICSA believes the current restrictions around the holding standstill period for sheep prior to export continues to frustrate the trade. According to Mr Brooks, “These restrictions hamper the practicalities of getting exports moving and need innovative solutions. The approach with cattle has been more flexible but the need to export sheep is every bit as urgent.”