::: The Al Mahmoud Express
Live Exports of cattle from Waterford to Libya are to resume this week, almost 17 years after the last such shipment left the Port.
Department of Agriculture officials recently granted approval after a second detailed inspection of the Syrian-registered ship, which will take 2,900 head of cattle to Tripoli.
The Department has been working towards this week’s sailing for some time, so as to give farmers an alternative outlet for certain categories of livestock and provide increased competition in the market place.
The option of live cattle exports offers a release valve for farmers who can’t afford to hold onto animals in wet weather and are forced to take them to the factory, and to accept whatever prices processors set. Like Minister Simon Coveney has said, the resumption of this trade will help to underpin cattle prices for the coming months.
It follows efforts by officials in Dublin and the Irish embassy in Rome over a considerable period of time to secure access to the Libyan market, where there is a real demand for suitable animals.
Libya, in particular, was an important live cattle export destination in the past. In 1995 a total of 82,433 cattle valued at more than €70 million were shipped there. However, business came to an abrupt halt the following year when Libya banned beef imports due to the outbreak of BSE.
It should be stressed that Ireland has a strict system of transport rules in respect of both national and international journeys. The current Irish regulations in relation to the approval of ships for the carriage of cattle have been in place since 1996, following a comprehensive review of certification standards.
Ireland sets a higher standard than other EU Member States and this is justified not only on sound animal welfare reasons but also because it reflects the nature of the shipping routes from this island. I am satisfied the necessary veterinary checks will be diligently enforced during the 10-day trip.
The resumption of live beef exports is also a boost for the Port of Waterford, which has lost a lot of business over recent years and needs additional commercial users. While it’s unclear when the next shipment might be, this is a good start.
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