Our beef production sector faces being completely wiped out, warns IFA president
Beef production in Ireland could be wiped out in the event of a hard Brexit, the president of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has warned.
Joe Healy said problems with currency volatility had already hit cattle prices and Irish farmers were down 20c per kg, or more than €70 per head, on this time last year.
The beef sector accounts for more than 30pc of the value of Irish agricultural output at producer prices.
There are about 79,000 farms with suckler cows and more than 90,000 farms have beef cattle.
"If the UK crashes out next March, we are facing a far more serious situation and the potential wipe-out of beef production in this country," said Mr Healy.
The beef output of Irish farming provides the key input to the Irish meat-processing industry.
The Irish meat-processing sector employs more than 13,000 people.
Mr Healy said that with fewer than 100 days to Brexit, there was massive concern among all farmers and especially livestock farmers.
"Our Taoiseach and Tánaiste have told us about all sorts of contingencies like customs posts and hiring extra vets," he said.
"But we haven't heard anything about what plan has been put in place to protect Irish farmers, who are the most exposed in Europe.
"The time has come for the Taoiseach and Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, along with the EU Commission, to come forward with a comprehensive programme of supports that will address the real issues around market supports and cattle prices."
Mr Healy said the IFA had already discussed the need for strong EU market supports with the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Agriculture Minister, but wanted the Government to set out exactly what market and other supports would be put in place.
Meanwhile, the UK government has committed to no immediate additional checks on agricultural products crossing the Irish Border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
In response to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee's report on Brexit and agriculture, it said it would take a "risk-based approach" to import checks, which will see no additional checks to begin with.
The Northern Irish Affairs Committee has called on the European Union to make a similar commitment following the announcement from Westminster.
The committee chairman, Dr Andrew Murrison, said that the decision was a "step in the right direction".