Dáil Éireann - Volume 582 - 24 March, 2004
Written Answers. - Live Exports.
Mr. Timmins Mr. Timmins
81. Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the measures he has taken to open new, or re-open old, markets for the live cattle trade since January 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9300/04]
Mr. Walsh Mr. Walsh
Mr. Walsh: It is my policy and that of the Government to ensure that Irish livestock or beef  exporters have unrestricted access to EU and world markets. To achieve that goal, my Department ensures that the animal health, welfare and other conditions necessary to facilitate the live export trade are fully in place.
Ireland exported 220,000 animals in 2003, of which 143,000 were exported to the EU and 37,000 to Lebanon. Currently the main markets for live cattle are Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal and Lebanon, and I believe the trade is operating satisfactorily.
With regard to live cattle exports to Egypt, the position is that a ban exists on all EU live cattle imports. Proposals for a trial shipment of live cattle from Ireland were submitted to the Egyptian authorities in 1997, but those proposals were not implemented. The lack of a market for live cattle exports to Egypt had been, however, more than offset by the volume of trade in beef exports to that country in the period up to 2001. The Egyptian market was re-opened to imports of Irish beef in late 2001 following an intensive political, technical and diplomatic campaign. Resumption of trade in commercial volumes had been hampered by conditions imposed by the Egyptian authorities on the type of cuts eligible for that market. Agreement was reached with the Egyptian authorities last September on the removal of those conditions and on new certification arrangements which now allow for a resumption in trade. An additional export refund of 30% over the normal rate was negotiated by Ireland regarding trade with Egypt. The extent to which the Egyptian market will take volumes of beef will depend on commercial decisions by exporters.
An agreement signed with Libya in June 2000 provided that Ireland would be officially listed as a source country for all Libyan tenders for the supply of live cattle. Since then, however, the Libyan Foreign Minister indicated that it had not been possible to import live cattle because of what he called logistical problems and that Libya would buy beef directly. Libya subsequently issued tenders for the supply of beef, and Ireland was included in the list of countries invited to tender. I understand that several Irish companies submitted bids at that time. Efforts at diplomatic and technical level are continuing to ensure that the agreement signed with Libya, in so far as it relates to cattle exports, is fully implemented.
Mr. Timmins Mr. Timmins
82. Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions he has had with Commissioner David Byrne regarding the live cattle transport proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9301/04]
Mr. Walsh Mr. Walsh
Mr. Walsh: I have raised this matter with Commissioner Byrne on numerous occasions, the latest being on Monday in Brussels on the margins of the Council meeting.
 While I welcome in principle any proposal which improves the welfare of animals being transported, I have made it clear from the outset that any such proposal must also have regard to the right of operators in the livestock sector to avail of the benefits of the single European market. From an Irish perspective, I have indicated on several occasions that I regard the live trade as an essential market outlet for producers. This trade will only be sustainable in the long-term on the basis of having the highest possible standards for the protection of animal welfare.
Several elements in the Commission’s original proposal, notably those regarding stocking densities, rest periods and unloading of animals, have the potential to impact adversely on the economics of the live trade from Ireland, while doing little, in my view, to improve the welfare of animals being transported. Since the draft regulation was first published during the Italian Presidency, and with the benefit of having met all of the stakeholder groups at national level and discussed their concerns, my officials and I have clearly articulated Ireland’s views on those elements at Council and at working party level. Under Ireland’s Presidency, I am pleased to say that progress is being made on a compromise proposal.
Ultimately, it will be the Council of Ministers which will decide whether to accept or reject the Commission’s proposed regulation. There are divergent views among member states on several aspects at present, and it is clear that, if agreement is to be reached before the end of Ireland’s Presidency, compromise will be required on all sides.
As President of the Agriculture Council, I will be doing my utmost to ensure that agreement is reached on a compromise which will address the legitimate concerns of those who are primarily exercised by the improvement of conditions for animals being transported, while ensuring that those engaged in live exports can continue to carry on their business in a manner which is economically viable.
Dáil Éireann 582 Written Answers. Live Exports.