30 July 2001
Irish border sheep trade to re-start

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

EXPORTS of live sheep from Northern Ireland to the Republic can resume from midnight on Tuesday (31 July) ending a five-month suspension due to foot-and-mouth.

Irish farm minister Joe Walsh signed the necessary legislation late last week, following concerted pressure from farming and government representatives in the north.

They had been angered that, even though Northern Ireland had been given permission by Brussels to resume live sheep exports from 1 July, Dublin had continued to obstruct the trade.

This ban has now been lifted, though the conditions attached could still make selling sheep to the south an onerous task.

For example, only finished lambs may be sent, going direct to a slaughterhouse.

They must not have been on any GB holding since 1 February, 2001, and must be identified by means of an ear tag carrying a flock number and an individual ID number.

They must be transported in a vehicle that has been cleansed and disinfected, with a veterinary certificate to prove it.

They must not be mixed with other stock, and must enter the Republic through four designated border crossings – at Lifford, Swani in Bar, Moybridge and Drumad.

Northern Ireland farm minister Brid Rodgers has welcomed the breakthrough.

“This will be welcome news to sheep producers and exporters in Northern Ireland. It heralds another step on the road to full and normal commercial farming activities.”

But Irish farmers view the trade with some trepidation.

“The big issue will be how the prices pan out, with sheep in the north about 20-30p/kg cheaper,” said one sheep industry source. “That is going to be magnetic in terms of supplies.”

The source was also concerned about the potential for bio-security breakdown between the two sides of the island.

“Northern Ireland may be foot-and-mouth-free, but what about movements from the GB mainland? We hear lots of stories about sheep crossing over from Scotland in fishing boats.”

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