By Hadi Fornaji
Tripoli, 26 July 2012:
Ireland is preparing to export . . .[restrict]live cattle to Libya in the coming weeks, for the first time in 16 years.
The first batches of cows will travel overland in trucks. However, the Irish Department of Agriculture is assessing at least one specialised walk on-walk off livestock vessel to cut future transport costs.
This is the first time in 16 years that Ireland has exported cattle to Libya. In the early 1990s large numbers of livestock were exported from Ireland, peaking in 1995 at 81,420 cows, valued at €70 million. Trade ceased in 1996 when, following an outbreak of BSE, or mad cow disease, Libya banned all cattle imports from Europe.
There remains, however, some controversy regarding the age of the grass-fed dairy-cross steers. In the past, livestock have been fattened up in Ireland for the first 30 months of their lives but now cattle will be exported when still less than 24 months old. This is in keeping with new standards set by Libya for imports of cattle from South America and Australia, where all recent imports have consistently been under 24 months of age.
The Libyan beef market offers European countries valuable export opportunities, especially Ireland, which has a €2 billion livestock sector. Irish beef faces competitors, however, as France, Spain and Italy are already shipping cows to Libya.
Libya and Ireland had been trading in cattle since the 1960s. During the European fuel crisis of 1973-4, Ireland exchanged cattle for Libyan oil. [/restrict]