A dedicated cross-agency of vets, live exporters and Department of Agriculture officials is needed to drive live exports, according to the ICMSA.

The farm organisation has said it feels that the market potential for live exports from Ireland is still not being realised after a meeting with Bord Bia on Tuesday 8 January.

We need a flourishing live export trade

“Where our beef sector is now, with farmer prices at very low levels, does anyone doubt that we have to really focus on our live exports?” Des Morrison, ICMSA livestock chair, said.

“The ICMSA has always stressed that we need a flourishing live export trade to keep the processors keen and give livestock producers a real competitive option in selling on the market.”

He said he understood that it took time to develop markets but that gave more weight to the idea of a single, dedicated body being set up to develop the live export trade.

“The ICMSA does not understand why this hasn’t happened because there is definitely scope to grow live exports to north African and European markets,” he said.

2018 kill

The 2018 kill was already running over 80,000 head higher than the five-year average and a massive 153,287 head above the 10-year average.

The next highest kill of 1.78m was recorded in 2001, with the largest throughput in the Bord Bia online database, which stretches back 24 years, recorded at 1,985,019 head in 1999.

Meanwhile, live exports increased by about 50,000 head in 2018, with the increase underpinned by calf exports rising by over 55,000 head.