Advisory service's no-deal research makes grim reading for farmers in Northern Ireland

A sign from Border Communities Against Brexit is seen on the borderline between County Cavan in Ireland and County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland near Woodford, Ireland, November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
A sign from Border Communities Against Brexit is seen on the borderline between County Cavan in Ireland and County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland near Woodford, Ireland, November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Mark McConville.

Farms in Northern Ireland would struggle to survive in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to business consultants.

Figures from the Andersons Centre show that, as it stands, a typical dairy Friesian farm would make a profit of £25,218 a year in 2020.

If the UK was to exit the EU with a deal this would fall by 33% to £16,972 a year, but a no-deal Brexit would result in farms operating at a £19,589 loss.

The numbers were revealed by Michael Haverty, who compiled Andersons' research, as the BBC reported that a no-deal Brexit could cost the UK farming industry £850m a year in lost profits.

He said that if farms were to take that "substantial" hit then it would "call into question the viability of those farms".

"The impact is more pronounced in dairy farms as between 28-33% of product goes across to the Republic for processing, so Northern Ireland is more exposed," Mr Haverty added.

Farmer James Martin who lives in Northern Ireland but sells his milk in the Republic of Ireland, cleans the milking shed after tending to his cattle on his dairy farm near the border village of Forkhill, Northern Ireland.
Farmer James Martin who lives in Northern Ireland but sells his milk in the Republic of Ireland, cleans the milking shed after tending to his cattle on his dairy farm near the border village of Forkhill, Northern Ireland. "We're less than a mile from the border, surrounded by the Republic on three sides," said Martin. "This is where you'd feel the brunt of it (a hard border)." REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne.

"No-deal would have a major impact as trade barriers could be put in place."

Figures for Andersons' meadow farm profitability showed that under current circumstances, NI farms are already projected to make a £4,392 loss in 2020.

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This would increase by 29% to £5,652 if the UK was to exit with a deal and by more than double to £11,731 were the UK to exit without a deal.

Mr Haverty also outlined these figures were predicted based on the assumption there would be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"It's difficult to quantify the figures as not enough information exists on how the border will be managed," he said.

Under a no-deal Brexit farms could have to pay a tariff on goods exported to the EU for the first time.

Lamb and live sheep exports could face tariffs of 45-50%, while trade and farming groups say some cuts of beef could see tariffs of more than 90%.

Speaking on BBC2's Victoria Derbyshire programme, farmers Jo and Lindsay Best, from Co Antrim, said: "It could wipe out the sheep industry in Northern Ireland.

"A large percentage of our sheep are exported into France and the Republic of Ireland and the price of feed could go up as well. It could decimate both the sheep and cattle industry here."

Ulster Farmers' Union president Ivor Ferguson claimed that leaving the EU without a deal would be "catastrophic".

"A no-deal outcome that results in high tariffs to sell into the EU market, lower quality, cheap food imports and a hard border on the island of Ireland remain a big concern," he said.

"We must mirror existing EU tariff levels in order to ensure the viability of primary producers. It cannot be overstated how important agri-food is to the Northern Ireland economy.

"It is Northern Ireland's largest manufacturer and leading exporter, turning over nearly £5bn every year and employing more than 90,000 people.

"The most challenging practical issue is the mitigation of SPS and veterinary regulations for the export trade in agri-food goods.

"Any additional checks or customs facilitations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will add time, complexity, paperwork and cost," the UFU president added.

Online Editors


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