Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 21 August 2017

We're a natural beef supplier to our neighbours - and must keep it that way

Overall, Bord Bia figures show 37pc of Irish food and drink exports are destined for the UK this year valued at €4.13bn. Stock picture
Overall, Bord Bia figures show 37pc of Irish food and drink exports are destined for the UK this year valued at €4.13bn. Stock picture
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

We've heard plenty of bluster and fist-pumping Stateside of late as 'America First' has become a mantra throughout the dustbowl of the mid-west.

Yet now it appears those cards are being played by some businesses as they attempt to roll out a 'British First' protectionist trade policy throughout the UK.

As farmers at Irish marts continue to buy those four-legged lawnmowers for a princely sum in the hopes of getting a return, it is impossible to deny the concerns over the tentacles of Brexit's hold on Ireland's €2.3bn valuable beef industry. As key to those returns are the British market where retailers, restaurants, factories and shops take a hefty 270,000 tonnes of Irish beef each year.

The call for food retailers to stock 'British-only' produce came in the week when the rhetoric between the UK and EU became ever more fraught.

Despite not stocking Irish meat, the Co-op chain singled out Ireland as the "biggest beneficiary of the EU meat trade with the UK" and called on other retailers to buy 'British-only'.

Overall, Bord Bia figures show 37pc of Irish food and drink exports are destined for the UK this year valued at €4.13bn.

The UK market is valuable to Ireland, with Irish beef purchased by the three major retailers - Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda - as they top up supplies in a country that is only 60pc self-sufficient. At a time when the number of cattle on the ground is growing, the UK market is even more important.

To put it in context, Ireland is the fifth largest net exporter of beef in the world.


Such a call for a 'British-only' campaign may be fobbed off by some as a marketing ploy. Yet the Agriculture Minister and powerbrokers in the food industry must take such a call seriously.

A protectionist campaign is dangerous as it feeds into the overall mindset surrounding the Brexit talks.

Those discussions are key to all of Ireland's exports and not just the meat trade on which tens of thousands of family farms rely.

Campaigns such as this are inflaming an already fraught situation that may see our interests relegated in the increasingly difficult discussions between the UK and the EU.

As its closest neighbour, operating the strictest standards on farms and food factories, we're a natural supplier.

Let's keep it that way.

Irish Independent





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