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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Farmers optimistic at cattle mart
Calves arriving at Carmarthen livestock mart
Some farmers question whether there is still a market in Europe
Farmers and cattle auctioneers say they are already seeing benefits from the lifting of the export ban on beef.

There was a mood of optimism among many gathered for the livestock mart in Carmarthen, west Wales, on Wednesday.

Foreign buyers had started returning to the sale and prices for young calves were creeping up.

Livestock director Huw Evans said it had been a difficult time for the industry with prices last winter just a fraction of their pre-ban levels.

During the 10-year export ban following the BSE crisis, dairy bull calves became "virtually worthless", according to farmers.

They often sold for very low prices or were slaughtered and disposed of through hunt kennels in Wales.

Livestock director Huw Evans
The Dutch buyers have already been here acquiring calves
Livestock director Huw Evans

Mr Evans said: "There is a feeling of optimism because our dairy farmers are at a very low ebb with the milk price, which is below the cost of production on most farms.

"Prior to the ban we did reach a peak when black and white bull calves - the bi-product of the dairy herd - averaged in May 1993 over 200 a head

"Recently we got down to an average of 2 per head".

Mr Evans said countries such as Holland and France wanted the calves to support their veal and rose beef systems and were keen to acquire them at a young age.

"Win-win situation"

Carmarthen livestock market
Dutch buyers have already started attending the mart

He said: "Some of the better animals are now showing a 100% increase on the ban figure and it is bringing us closer to the figures we were used to in the early 1990s."

Wednesday's sale attracted more than 50 farmers with hundreds of head of cattle for sale.

Farmer Graham Jones said the lifting of the ban had not come a moment too soon.

"Selling cheap does nobody any good. Ending the ban is a win-win situation," he said.

"The last 10 years have been tough and if you look around here today and see the age of the farmers - young farmers are not coming into it because there is no future.

"I've got a son and I've told him not to come into farming."

Farmer Gary Price
It just depends whether the foreign countries will take our beef
Farmer Gary Price

And others are warning there could still be some difficulties ahead.

Farmer Gary Price said: "It already has started to make a difference. Beef is going up in price slowly and calves are selling well.

"It just depends whether the foreign countries will take our beef.

"We have been out of that market for 10 years and other countries have taken come in so I think it will be quite a job to get back into it."

Dai Morgan, who runs a small holding, added: "I think the foreign market is there - it will be people protesting against exporting calves who will be the biggest problem."


SEE ALSO:
Back in the beef market
03 May 06 |  UK


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