The Minister for Agriculture has described an IFA demand on live exports as 'reckless' for the industry.
It comes IFA President Joe Healy was on the ground in Cherbourg, Normandy, France, this week visiting the Pignet Lairage.
Healy said an additional 600 calves could be delivered within days with some co-operation from the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and the French authorities.
He said Minister Creed must request the French authorities to approve an extension which would to add this extra capacity in Cherbourg. With the additional 400 places announced late last week, it could increase capacity by 3,000 per week over three sailings, to 15,000 calves per week, according to IFA.
The IFA has called on Minister Creed to also allow the use of the facility at Abbeville, France which can act IFA said as an overflow lairage in light of the backlog caused by the exceptional bad sailing weather. IFA claimed this was permitted in previous years.
The Abbeville facility can accommodate 5,000 calves, it claimed.
However, it has been claimed the journey to Abbeville would add substantially to the journey time of the calves and breach EU animal welfare laws.
A spokesperson for the Minister said he will not act recklessly and risk bringing down our entire live export industry.
"The Minister will not, however, ignore the law when it comes to animal welfare and reiterates that compliance is central to protecting an industry which has many many objectors.
"The Ministers record in developing the calf export trade speaks for itself with a 63% increase in 2018 and further strong growth in 2019 to date. His Department has facilitated exporters in every way to maximise opportunities including financial incentives of over €700k in the past year alone.
Last year the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed confirmed that penalties have been applied to those found to have breached live export regulations.
His comments came following a recent investigation by animal rights group Eyes on Animals on a number of transporters from different countries leaving Rosslare port.
The journeys took place on March 13, 2018 when two teams from animal rights group Eyes on Animals inspected calf trucks leaving Rosslare Port and heading to Cherbourg Port via the Stena Roll-on Roll-off ferry service.
The Group claimed the ferry journey took 19 hours in total (including a 1.5 hour delay).
It also said that at least six of the calf trucks that came off the Stena Carrier did not stop at the first available control post, to unload the calves as they should, according to the EU regulations.
“Instead they drove to a different Qualivia control post, situated in Abbeville, a further drive of 5 hours resulting in all of these trucks exceeding the maximum allowed transport time of 19 hours (9-1-9) for unweaned calves”, the group said.
Meanwhile, live calf exports have also sparked a row between members of the Oireachtas Ag Committee.
Carlow Deputy Pat Deering, Chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and Marine said: "Fianna Fáil’s only agriculture policy seems to be to criticise the Minister and we see that yet again this week, even though extra lairage space has been secured in Cherbourg.”
He claimed Fianna Fail's Agriculture Spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue seems to be missing the point of the work the Department of Agriculture is doing and how it fits into the export process.
"Exporters need to work together here and be honest with farmers.
“The Purcell brothers have offered a ship with capacity for 4,000 calves which will also offer lairage facility but the exporters have been holding back, thus having a detrimental effect on the prices of calves and dairy stock.
“It’s amazing that the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Agriculture has not encouraged exporters to use this service so that farmers can get the advantage of the facility that is being offered to Irish exporters," he said.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Charlie McConalogue TD has criticised government efforts after it was announced lairage capacity near Cherbourg Port, France has been increased to hold an additional 400 animals.
His comments come as McConalogue said, “It is alarming the Minister for Agriculture has welcomed this increase as it does not go near enough to ensuring Irish farmers are in a position to export dairy bull calves.
"We are at the peak of the export season, yet little seems to be done by the government to aide those in the industry. The farming community is crying out for additional capacity for exporting their produce but this has not materialised.
“I understand there is room for even more lairage capacity in Cherbourg, up to 600 additional spaces according to some estimates. Robust efforts from government on behalf of the Agri-sector is needed to have this expanded.
“The beef sector is in crisis. The ongoing export issues combined with the news of tariffs on exports to the UK from the Republic have caused great anxiety in the sector. The Minister must give assurances to the farming community as we navigate the next number of weeks post Brexit,” Deputy McConalogue said.