Over 30,000t of SMP sold from intervention
The volume sold and the price is higher in the latest skimmed milk powder (SMP) tender.

Some 30,067t of skimmed milk powder (SMP) has been sold from European intervention stocks for €1,251/t in the latest tender this week.

The price has risen from €1,231 and is an increase on the 20,033t sold in the last tender at the end of October.

For this tender, no maximum buying-in price was fixed and no stock was bought in.

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New calf ferry to sail from mid-March
Boat could allow higher calf exports in peak weeks of spring 2019, exporters told by Department.

The new ferry WB Yates is due to commence sailings from Dublin to France from a target date of 20 March and could allow significantly higher calf exports to EU markets, exporters were told at this week’s annual briefing by Bord Bia.

But that depends on two developments falling into place, a Department representative said.

First, the boat had to be inspected and approved by marine and veterinary officials from the Department for its suitability to carry livestock safely.

The second, more complex issue, is whether it will sail on the same days as the current Rosslare sailings by Stena or on alternate days.

Staggered demand

Sailing on alternate days would stagger demand for limited lairage space at Cherbourg, where calves must rest for 12 hours.

Efficient use of this lairage will be critical between mid-February and mid-March when peak numbers of calves are sold.

The owners of the new boat, Irish Ferries, have been in talks with the Department of Agriculture and expressed a willingness to facilitate calf exports to EU markets.

Exporters have asked the Department to only give the boat approval to carry calf trucks if the company operates its schedule to facilitate maximum exports.

EU moves no-deal Brexit legislation
The European Commission has begun legal changes to ensure transport links are not cut off with the UK in the case of a hard Brexit, but other trade restrictions would apply overnight.

The European Commission introduced legislation to prepare a number of sectors for a potential no-deal Brexit, urging other European institutions to adopt the changes in time for 29 March.

These include a measure to allow UK hauliers to transport goods into the EU, "provided the UK confers equivalent rights to EU road haulage operators".

The Commission warned, however, that every EU member states should "take all the necessary steps to be in a position to apply the Union Customs Code and the relevant rules regarding indirect taxation in relation to the United Kingdom". For Ireland, this means imposing customs checks and tariffs on shipments moving across the border with Northern Ireland and the Irish sea.

Checks and tariffs

In September, the UK promised to recognise a range of EU regulations for a period in case of a hard Brexit to avoid shutting the door on trade flows.

"These measures will not – and cannot – mitigate the overall impact of a no-deal scenario, nor do they in any way compensate for the lack of stakeholder preparedness or replicate the full benefits of EU membership or the terms of any transition period, as provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement," the European Commission cautioned.

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Listen: double standards on animal welfare and live exports
The standards applied to the transportation of livestock are coming under increased scrutiny in Europe.

Ireland's participation in long-distance live exports and its strong record on animal welfare have been contrasted with practices in other countries in lengthy debates in the European Parliament in recent days.

The Parliament's Agriculture Committee discussed a draft report by Danish MEP Jørn Dohrmann on standards in live transport, which recommends restricting live exports through maximum travel times and banning those to countries that do not meet EU standards.

"We could slaughter closer to the point of origin, even on the farm itself," MEP Dohrmann said.

Long-distance transport

Janusz Wojciechowski of the European Court of Auditors told the committee that 18 countries – including Ireland – use the optional CAP measure available to improve animal welfare. However, he also questioned long-distance live exports, singling out Irish shipments to the Middle East.

"It's pretty impossible to guarantee the standards over the thousands of kilometres over which these animals are transported. Therefore, economic instruments should be applied to reduce or eliminate those modes of transportation" and make them "financially unviable", Wojciechowski said.

Willy Baltussen from Wageningen University in the Netherlands contributed an independent study on the enforcement of transport rules to the debate. He said Ireland was an "outlier", with 16.7% of failed inspections on transports of live animals in 2015, while other countries reported little or no infringements. However, all speakers agreed that the quality of enforcement and data between EU was wildly inconsistent and needs to be harmonised.

Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness pointed out that, according to the same study, Bulgaria reported zero non-compliance across 4m inspections.

"We do a lot of inspections, they are very rigorous. Are we comparing like with like?" she said. She was joined by EPP party colleague Sofia Ribeiro in promising amendments to the report before its adoption in the new year.

"There is room for improvement but we can say that the EU is a shining light for the rest of the world on this issue," said MEP Ribeiro.

Several MEPs, including Ireland's Luke Ming Flanagan, supported the draft report's view that unnecessary live transport results from the closure of small rural abattoirs and meat industry concentration. However, Baltussen disagreed, pointing out that many animals are transported to be slaughtered where processing is cheaper regardless of distance. While transporting carcases or meat is cheaper, he said that some buyers prefer live animals.

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A glance at 2018 live export destinations

Call for improved enforcement over animal welfare