Libyan trade will put a floor under prices – Connaughton

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The reopening of the live export trade to Libya will have the potential to put a floor price under our cattle prices, Deputy Paul Connaughton said this week.

After prolonged negotiations involving the Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Simon Coveney T.D., his senior officials, Bord Bia and leading cattle exporters, the Libyan authorities have indicated they are open for business, but at a price.

‘After consultations with the Minister and with Bord Bia, I am confident that the Libyan trade will act as a market correction mechanism, should UK prices in particular, begin to slip. Libya would then come into its own as, contrary to some announcements, Libya wants a wide range of good quality live cattle and beef products.

‘There was a time back in the mid-90s when the Libyan market was open to Ireland when the EU paid export refunds to get cattle out of the EU area. The quality of most of these cattle was, to say the least, mediocre. In the mid-90s, the export refund totalled as much as the price of the animal itself and quality wasn’t always the priority. However, all of this has changed dramatically. All export refunds are now gone and the Libyan authorities are scouring the world for suitable cattle for their particular requirements and we are in direct competition on both price and quality, with countries much closer to Libya.’

Deputy Connaughton said his research showed that the Libyan veterinary authorities were very impressed with what they saw in Ireland during their recent visits. ‘They were particularly impressed by our strict code of traceability. Each animal from birth to slaughter is clearly identified and documented, together with the identification of the farmer, the method of rearing and a host of other good environmental factors that clearly point to the production of mainly grass-based beef and cattle.

‘Present prices for Irish beef particularly on the UK market, may put the Libyan market at a slight disadvantage just for now, but it is imperative that this vital market outlet is serviced properly at all times. In 1995, prior to the BSE ban, Ireland exported a total of 260,000 head to third countries. Exports to Libya totalled 81,000 head.

‘Signals from the Chinese market are quite encouraging but this market is not likely to kick into real action for a few years. However, much more immediate results are to be had from China in relation to the purchase of skin and offal by-products, which make up a sizeable contribution to the overall price of an animal.

‘It is in our own best interests to have a live cattle export trade all over the world as this is the only guarantee Irish farmers have of creating competition with the meat factories,” Deputy Connaughton concluded.