Two of the country's top farming organisations have welcomed the reopening of the Egyptian market to Irish beef.
The move was greeted as good news by Joe Healy, president of the IFA, and Edmond Phelan, chair of the ICSA bef committee.
The announcement was made at the end of last week by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.
Five Irish plants will commence exporting to Egypt upon completion of technical arrangements.
“This news is indeed welcome and timely as we need all the markets we can get to facilitate increasing cattle numbers. However, farmers will be keen to see if this move will strengthen beef prices. That will be the real test,” said Mr Phelan.
He commended Minister Creed on his efforts to open live trade with Algeria.
“With extra cattle supplies, these on-going efforts to secure new markets are vital. We would also like to see the same efforts put into the potentially lucrative Iran market,” he said.
Mr Phelan said ICSA had been lobbying for the reopening of the Irish Embassy in Tehran and had talks with the Iranian Embassy on this issue.
ICSA is also in discussion with the Central Bank on facilitating financial transactions between Ireland and Iran, which currently do not exist.
Mr Phelan said ICSA will continue to push for new markets for both beef and the live trade of cattle.
“Huge opportunities exist for these exports. The increased production we are currently witnessing will not be viable if we do not capitalise on these opportunities. We also need to see a sensible approach from the Irish processors exporting to Egypt. Any advantages to this market opening will be lost if we see factories undercutting each other on price for these contracts,” he said.
Meanwhile, the IFA president said the reopening of the Egyptian market was a positive development for the beef sector and another market opened as part of the IFA campaign on market access over the last two years.
Mr Healy called for a major diplomatic initiative to be led by the Minister Creed to maximise every single market opportunity on live exports in 2017.
“It is clear there are real opportunities for Ireland in the live export markets such as Turkey, North Africa (Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Morocco) and continental Europe and all of these must be actively pursued in 2017,” he said.
Against a background of increased cattle supplies of 100,000 head forecast for 2017 and a continuing increase in calf supplies, Mr Healy said we need to get the capacity of the live trade back up to 300,000 to 400,000 head to drive competition and get a balance back into the beef trade capable of delivering viable prices from the market.
The IFA president said IFA had worked hard in opening up the live export trade to Turkey in 2016 and this had proved critical to the weanling trade throughout last autumn.
He said it was essential that the trade to Turkey is vibrant again in 2017.
He also called for the restrictions on labelling being used to inhibit and block the vitally important live trade to Northern Ireland and Britain must be resolved. He said it is totally unacceptable that processors and retailers are allowed to stymie a trade by unfairly using EU labelling legislation.
He called for a strong beef price increase from the meat factories, saying there was a full clear out of retail beef sales over the holiday period and factories are very anxious for cattle again in the New Year.
Mr Healy said a significant price increase was well justified based on strong demand and improved market and exchange rate returns.
Prices at the factories had moved a little over the Christmas / New Year period and €3.80/kg base for steers and €3.90/kg base for heifers was freely available and more being paid in places to secure numbers. But, he said, factories had fallen well behind on price with the Irish price now below the EU average and a wide gap opening up with prices in our main export market in Britain.