Business Brexit

Sunday 4 December 2016

Farmers feel first pain of Brexit as beef prices dive

Louise Hogan and Darragh McCullough

Published 28/06/2016 | 02:30

The uncertainty following the UK’s vote to exit the EU has seen farmers feel the first pain of Brexit – as beef prices took a tumble. Stock Image
The uncertainty following the UK’s vote to exit the EU has seen farmers feel the first pain of Brexit – as beef prices took a tumble. Stock Image

The uncertainty following the UK's vote to exit the EU has seen farmers feel the first pain of Brexit - as beef prices took a tumble.

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Analysts have warned that the immediate impact will come from the drop in the value of Sterling. This will most likely lead to lower prices for milk, grain, cattle and potentially sheep over the next few months.

And extra costs from the potential return of customs control would also mean higher prices for consumers.

The statistics highlight the importance of the our nearest market - 41pc of Irish food and drink exports, worth €4.4bn, and 54pc of beef, worth €1.1bn, are sold yearly to the UK.

The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Joe Healy warned that it is critical that steps are taken by Irish and EU governments to "minimise uncertainty" at a time when there are low product prices across so many sectors.

Alan Matthews, professor emeritus of European agricultural policy at Trinity College, also pointed out that the UK was a net contributor to the EU, with the bulk of the monies going to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The net contribution of the UK into the CAP budget in 2014 was €1.27bn, and there is a high dependency among farm families on the monies from Brussels to run their farms.

"It was a net contributor so the other countries will have to cough up more, so it may make them reluctant to agree to a bigger CAP budget," he warned.

However, Prof Matthews warned the trade implications are going to be "major" as a Brexit means the UK will have its own customs union and trade policy.

"Any food imports into Ireland will have to be checked, which will mean higher prices for consumers," he said.

"It is going to add to trade costs, so that has to be borne by somebody. We know who bears the extra costs in the food chain, it is the primary producer.

"A rough estimate of that is it could add at least 5pc to the cost of trading between the two countries."

Teagasc economist Kevin Hanrahan warned that Brexit is likely to impact on all produce prices, including cattle. It may also hit sheep exports to France due to increased competition from the plummeting pound.

The dangers from South America taking a share of Ireland's valuable beef market in the UK have also been highlighted by factory body Meat Industry Ireland (MII).

Irish Independent

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