Farm Ireland

Monday 25 March 2019

New border roles spark fears of vet shortages

BORDER STAND: Farmers Brendan McLaughlin, Shane McNally and Ryan Gallagher at the protest. Photo: Jonathan Porter
BORDER STAND: Farmers Brendan McLaughlin, Shane McNally and Ryan Gallagher at the protest. Photo: Jonathan Porter
On guard: An Irish Customs Post stands along the Border in Tully. Photo: Getty
Eddie Punch
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Farmers could face further difficulties in getting vets to call out to their farm as the Department of Agriculture's invitation to vets to register for Border Inspection Posts (BIP) with them as part of Brexit contingency planning could exacerbate the shortage of large-animal specialists.

The Department yesterday launched an initiative which would see vets deployed at Dublin and Rosslare Ports should the need arise. It told the Farming Independent that the number of vets needed to fill the BIPs would depend on the outcome of Brexit.

But ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch warned that the move would only lead to further shortages in large-animal vets and add pressure on the industry.

"A lot of the best vets have already gone to work for the Department. We need to ask ourselves how we can work to remunerate large-animal vets," he said.

"Further to this, suckler farmers aren't earning nearly enough to afford some of the high vet fees that are out there because of the shortage that is there. It is a problem that will get worse before it gets better."

IFA animal health committee member Bert Stewart pointed out that many large-animal vet practices in Ulster are having to recruit vets from eastern Europe as it is a "real struggle" to recruit domestic large-animal vets.

Conor Geraghty of Veterinary Ireland said he would prefer if the positions were filled by existing temporary veterinary inspection officers, rather than recruiting new vets.

Meanwhile, farm organisations have warned that the recent move to increase the three-year state aid limit from €15,000 to €25,000 would barely cover the costs already incurred by the struggling beef sector.

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ICSA president Patrick Kent said beef price is already down up to €200 a head for bull beef.

"If there is a no-deal Brexit and the UK applies full WTO tariffs to beef imports, then the state aid announcement will not even remotely cover beef losses," he said.

"In that case the Irish Government will have to demand a comprehensive EU package to add to extra state aid."

IFA president Joe Healy said significantly more funding would be needed in a worst-case scenario.

Mr Healy said in a no deal Brexit, state aid limited to €8,300 per year will not be enough given the losses that farmers have already encountered and will be facing in such a scenario.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said Ireland is looking for aid under existing EU rules as well as "exceptional aid" to deal with the Brexit fallout - whether there is a deal or not.


"The Commission says all options are on the table," Mr Creed said. "All of those instruments can be triggered, but they will want to have quantifiable evidence as to what the impact of Brexit is. They stand ready to come to the assistance of the industry."

He said the EU is not allocating a financial envelope for Ireland up front, but that all options were on the table, including state aid relief.

Last week the European Commission raised the minimum level of state aid governments can award without seeking prior approval from Brussels.

Mr Creed said Ireland has plenty of "aces to play" in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The UK will want to secure EU access for its banking sector and airspace industry, the minister said, providing Ireland and the EU with useful trade-offs.

"The UK will face a judgement," Mr Creed said. "They will face difficult choices and we have significant chips to play in that game."

Dairy Industry Ireland welcomed the European Commission's move to give State Aid approval of West Cork-based Carbery's €78m move to expand its production facility at Ballineen to diversify from cheddar cheese into other types such as mozzarella.

However, DII's Conor Mulvihill said: "We strongly urge and continue to work with government to pull every lever possible to protect the sector - robust actions such as financial instruments, tariff rebates, loans, activation of EU schemes such as aid for private storage and intervention, export supports and training funding all need to be put in place to mitigate the effects of a potential 'cliff edge' no deal."

The Department of Agriculture here has estimated the cost of tariffs for the sector as a whole would amount to €1.7bn, based on Irish agri-food exports to the UK of €4.8bn in 2016.

Indo Farming