Extra sailing capacity for the export of dairy calves to the Netherlands and other EU veal markets looks set to be in place this spring.
ntil now livestock could only travel by ferry from Rosslare Port, Co. Wexford to Cherbourg Port in France three days a week. Although sea freight service demand is due to intensify in Brexit’s wake, live exporters have been assured their cargo “will be prioritised”.
Meanwhile, some live exporters are considering future alternative options – including air freight.
Speaking to the Farming Independent, Joe Burke Bord Bia senior manager of meat and livestock said: “We understand there will be additional sailings for carrying livestock, including calf trucks.
“It’s not fully confirmed yet, the vessels have to be fully passed to carry livestock trucks, so it’s not clear whether it will be five or six days a week that calves and livestock trucks will be able to take that route.
“When we could only go three days a week the two lairages in Cherbourg would have been a bottleneck at times. The situation improved last spring when one operator increased capacity fairly substantially so between that, and the additional sailing days, capacity is not likely to be a limiting factor in 2021.”
Dairy calf exports declined 28pc in 2020 – down 56,000 head from 200,000 head in 2019 – largely due to the impact of Covid-19. The main 2021 markets for Irish dairy calves will be the Netherlands, Spain and, to a lesser extent, Belgium.
“There will be more competition from exporters going direct to Europe rather than use the UK land bridge. But we’re getting strong indications of additional supply in transport capacity. The ferry companies have said calf exports will be ‘prioritised’.”
In the midst of sailing cancellations last February and March, some live exporters considered airfreight.
“We’d unprecedented weather disruption last spring; one operator was very close to flying out calves. I spoke to different air freight operators. It was still working out more expensive, but depended on aircraft size and how often you wanted to charter it.
“The best route was Shannon to Ostend, Belgium; it was likely to add about €30/calf onto transport costs. It is a conversation among live exporters, while their primary focus is existing transport routes and compliance with Department/EU regulations they are, of course, looking at future alternatives too.”