Analysis: The 5 big Brexit questions facing our beef industry
A look at the key questions and challenges which Brexit will pose for our beef industry.
1 How much are we likely to lose in the British market?
This isn't a question that you're likely to hear definitive answers to anytime soon, but it is the key issue for beef farmers.
Currently, Britain accounts for just over half of our beef exports, or €1.1bn in sales last year. While volumes were down by 2pc, the value was actually down by 12pc. That's equivalent to €140m off the top line, most of which has to be related to currency. Will we see full year figures for 2017 fall €280m lower than levels in 2015? Probably, but that's only the start of the potential losses.
Early analysis by the ESRI calculated a 21pc boost in trade between two countries being inside the EU compared to trading with a state outside the EU, but inside the customs union. That boost is almost treble that when one of the trading partners is outside the EU customs union, which looks likely following the speech by British Prime Minister Theresa May last week.
In the latter worse-case scenario, Ireland would be facing the same trade barriers, 60pc tariffs and competition, as any other country in world. Bear in mind that the world market beef price is closer to €3/kg than the current €4/kg Irish farmers are banking on.
Obviously, both of those factors would simply wipe out Irish beef exports to the UK overnight, but that's an unlikely scenario. A large proportion of Irish beef into the UK is sold into premium outlets like Tesco, Sainsburys, McDonalds and so on. They only want beef that the British public is comfortable with - local, familiar, and trusted. Apart from the British farmers themselves, there's nobody that can compete with the Irish on that front.
The anonymous food service sector - the burger and chip vans at festivals and caterers at events, sandwiches, etc - this is where we are most vulnerable to under-cutting from cheaper imports.