Dáil Éireann - Volume 412 - 12 November, 1991

Written Answers. - Cattle Export Trade.

133. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if it is proposed to establish markets and re-open the live cattle export trade in view of the extremely low prices being obtained by farmers for cattle at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. O'Kennedy): Traditionally, Irish trade in live cattle has been primarily with Northern Ireland, the UK and Libya and I assume that it is the latter market to which the Deputy is referring. In this regard, live cattle exports to Libya were suspended in May 1990 due to Libyan concerns over BSE. Since then extensive consultations have taken place at ministerial and official level with the Libyan authorities. In September 1990, I visited Libya with officials following which a Libyan delegation visited Ireland in late November 1990. They indicated that they would make a favourable report to their authorities regarding the health status of cattle and beef.

Developments have moved slowly since partly because of local Libyan difficulties in the animal health area. However, contacts between the Irish and Libyan authorities are continuing and I am hopeful that as a result the live cattle trade will resume shortly.

In so far as the store trade itself is concerned prices for forward stores are at levels close to last year. This is a reflection of the stability resulting from the revision to the arrangements for processors' margins for intervention beef which I negotiated last August. There is obviously a wide variation in prices depending on quality with the good quality stores doing better.

I am concerned that store heifers and [1094] weanlings are making somewhat lower prices than last year. In this context I was pleased to support the recent Commission proposal to increase the suckler cow premium this year by up to 20 ECU (£17.58). I am satisfied that this move will improve confidence and provide important income support for producers.