Irish farming must prepare for big changes even in a 'soft' Brexit
"No matter what kind of Brexit takes place, things are going to change." That was the big message from Agriculture Minister Michael Creed at the recent Brexit Stakeholders Consultative Committee meeting.
Minister Creed told stakeholders that contingency planning is ongoing and that a no-deal Brexit would present enormous challenges for the agri-food sector.
Half of our beef exports by both value (€1.1bn) and volume (290,000 tonnes) are sent to the UK each year. In the event of a hard Brexit, this would lead to the imposition of tariffs of up to 70pc (€780m).
IFA beef chair Angus Woods urged the Government to take advantage of EU economic safeguard clauses to put in place immediate measures to lift pressures off the Irish beef sector.
"The EU Commission has support tools and mechanism ready to go to support farmers. The whole uncertainty and nervousness around Brexit is having a serious impact on prices as the case for hard Brexit is still a real possibility."
Last year, 432,000 lambs were imported from Northern Ireland for processing. According to Bord Bia figures, these lambs would be subject to WTO tariffs of 85.5c/kg if no deal between the EU and UK is struck, which would effectively end cross-border trade.
While ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara thinks the shortage of lambs would lead to an increase in prices in the Republic in the short-term, he thinks a soft-Brexit is the best outcome for trade overall.
"If there was a hard Brexit, I'd worry that in the long-term, factories might have to close as they wouldn't have enough of a supply. There's a lot of uncertainty at the moment. A lot of sheep farmers have beef as well so if there is hard Brexit, they would be doubly affected."