Viewpoint: Tory triumph is a cause for real concern
Published 13/05/2015 | 02:30
The general election results from Britain should be a cause of serious concern for Irish farmers and our food industry.
That last week's ballot delivered a Conservative government is of relatively minor importance to most people south of the Border on this side of the water.
But the new British government's commitment to holding a referendum on the UK's continued membership of the EU is of massive significance for our economy as a whole, and for the food sector in particular.
The trade figures underline the importance of the issue for Irish farmers. The British market last year took almost €4bn worth of Irish food and drink exports.
Each year the market takes close to 250,000t of Irish beef or almost half our total beef exports. The value of the trade is worth in excess of €900m.
The United Kingdom is also a crucial market for dairy exports. Last year dairy sales in Northern Ireland and Britain earned more than €996m for Irish co-ops and dairy companies. Pigmeat exports were worth €357m, while poultry exports totalled €300m.
Britain is by far the most important market for the Irish food sector. The heavy investment by Irish meat and dairy processors in the North and Britain - Dawn Meats and ABP are among the biggest operators in the British beef sector - highlights the extent to which the food industries in both countries have become enmeshed.
Any fundamental change to the nature of this close trading relationship is certain to be hugely disruptive and extremely costly for Irish co-ops and companies and for Irish farmers.