Friday, May 15, 2020

The Sarah M, as pictured from Dunmore East this afternoon.

The Sarah M, a livestock vessel which was due to ship 1,200 cattle to Algeria today (Friday) from the Port of Waterford at Belview, remains moored in the Waterford Estuary off Dunmore East.

On Monday last, exporters Roundwood Park Livestock and Premium Livestock took the decision to postpone the shipment of bulls and bullocks as it did not have a “sufficient quantity of compliant animals for export assembled by then”.

It’s understood that a complication arose due to a difficulty with cattle not being administered a wormer while at their farm of origin, thus ensuring that their required withdrawal period would have been fulfilled prior to slaughter in Algeria.

On Saturday last, Department of Agriculture officials met with “the exporter and his associates…at which time the processes and protocols necessary to enable the export (to) proceed were agreed”.

A Department spokesperson stated: “The exporter reverted on Monday morning indicating that the export would not proceed on this coming Friday as it was not possible for him to have sufficient quantity of compliant animals for export assembled by then.”

However, at the time of writing, the Sarah M remains anchored in the Estuary, which suggests the exporter is still attempting to resolve the matter so that it can load up at Belview in the coming days.

The exporter’s previous shipment saw cattle administered the required wormer while being weighed for loading, which ensured completion of the withdrawal period upon their disembarking.

The Department of Agriculture then contacted the exporters regarding their next shipment and advised them that such worming would have been carried out at the farm of origin of each sold animal. According to the exporters, this condition left them unable to achieve the necessary criteria with a view to sailing from Belview today.

But with the Irish Farmers Journal reporting that it’s costing €20,000 a day to leave the empty ship off Dunmore, the need for a resolution hardly needs to be underlined for beef finishers and the exporters alike.

In a statement issued to this newspaper, the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) called on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to “ensure that live exports to Algeria continue this week and beyond”.

On Friday last, IFA President Tim Cullinan spoke to live exporter Ahmed Salman (of Roundwood Park Livestock) via a conference call, along with IFA National Livestock Chairman Brendan Golden.

“I contacted the Minister on Friday night (last) and a meeting took place with the Department in Wexford on Saturday to try and resolve various operational issues. While progress was made, I am still concerned that there are outstanding issues,” said Mr Cullinan. “These must be resolved.”

Tim Cullinan contended: “A spokesman for the Minister has told the media that all matters are resolved, but I am concerned that this is not the case. The live export trade provides vital competition to factories in the market for cattle. The current international live trade to Algeria, Libya and Turkey has definitely helped to stabilise prices. This trade cannot be put at risk due to operational issues,” he said.”

He concluded: “At the meeting with Mr Salman, we also stressed that all farmers must be paid on the day for any cattle purchased for export.”

A Department of Agriculture statement read: “Minister Creed has been a strong supporter of live exports throughout his tenure as minister which has seen live exports double during his time in office.”

“Having acquired access to these markets the department works to ensure that all exports have veterinary certification in accordance with each importing country’s specific market requirements.

Since January 1st, almost 10,000 animals have been exported “to third country market,” according to the Department.

The Department of Agriculture was contacted for further comment on this issue earlier today and at the time of posting we’re awaiting a reply.

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