Exports of live cattle from the Republic of Ireland to Libya are set to resume for the first time since 1996, raising hopes of restoring the formerly buoyant trade and reopening other markets.
Two Irish firms – Murphy Hunter International Livestock and Quinn International Livestock – are partnering with Syrian business Al Mahmoud to export 2,900 head of cattle.
The Al Mahmoud Express is expected to dock in Waterford within the next few weeks, said David Murphy, a director of Murphy Hunter, with its return journey expected to take at least a week.
A good number of the cattle are already assembled, said Murphy, with Cork-based Murphy Hunter largely sourcing cattle from the south and Athlone-based Quinn from the midlands of Ireland. The consignment, which is to include all breeds except Friesians with a live weight of 250-360kg, is restricted to 2,900 head by animal welfare requirements.
The Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) approved the vessel for the carriage of the live cattle on January 30, after conducting a second inspection in Istanbul to ensure changes had been made in compliance with its welfare requirements.
DAFM Minister Simon Coveney welcomed resumption of the trade route as a welcome boost to the cattle trade, providing alternative market outlets for certain categories of livestock and helping to underpin cattle prices for the coming months.
Coveney said the deal had followed efforts by DAFM and the Irish embassy in Rome over a considerable period of time to re-secure access to the Libyan market.
Representatives from Al Mahmoud have visited Irish farms to discuss specifications for the consignment, with payment scheduled to follow once the vessel has left Waterford.
Murphy Hunter, which also exports live cattle to Morocco, Spain and Italy, is hopeful the current consignment will restart regular trade between the markets.
In 1995, Irish exports of live cattle to the Middle East were valued at over €130m, with around 175,000 head destined for Egypt and 80,000 head for Libya.