Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 19 March 2019

UK tariffs pose €1.7bn threat to agri-food sector here

Consumers also face price hikes on bread, milk, cheese and eggs

Picture; Gerry Mooney
Picture; Gerry Mooney

Kevin Doyle, Ciaran Moran and Louise Hogan

Food producers and farmers will see their businesses decimated by tariffs and quotas that the UK is planning in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

The multi-billion-euro beef trade will be worst affected while the overall impact on rural Ireland looks set to be worse than previously feared.

It comes after the British government indicated it will apply extra taxes on sheep, meat, beef, poultry, dairy and pig meat in order to protect its own farmers.

New tariffs will also hit consumers in the pocket, with predictions suggesting the price of bread and flour could rise by 30pc. Milk, cheese and eggs could see a 46pc hike.

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.

The Irish Independent understands Agriculture Minister Michael Creed also warned Cabinet colleagues yesterday that a major backlash from farmers is on the way unless swift action is taken.

Sources say he predicted issues for Irish exports as British trucks held up at Dover are unlikely to move aside to let them through.

And he noted that there are serious questions to resolve over the fishing industry.

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The Government is set to dramatically up its preparation for a no-deal scenario in the first week of March.

The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) estimates the imposition of World Trade Organisation tariffs in a no-deal Brexit will impose a direct cost of €800m per year on the beef sector alone.

Farmers believe that for every 5c/kg change on the price, Mr Creed needs to secure €20 per head additional direct payment compensation.

IFA president Joe Healy said Irish beef farmers were already counting their losses.

He urged the minister and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan to come forward immediately with a plan for comprehensive market supports.

With just six weeks to go until the UK leaves, Cormac Healy from Meat Industry Ireland said any Brexit outcome would have negative trade and market implications.

"However, a no-deal Brexit, in which Irish meat exports are not only faced with logistical chaos and additional trading costs but also with the imposition of import tariffs in the UK, would decimate trade and seriously damage production in Ireland, resulting in jobs losses and a major hit to rural economies," said Mr Healy.

Irish beef exports are worth €2.5bn, with half destined for UK consumers. Other produce particularly exposed to the uncertainties in the UK marketplace include the mushroom industry, while 25pc, or €1bn, of total dairy exports goes to the UK.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Richard Bruton has offered assurances the Government is not anticipating blackouts or power outages on either side of the Border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

However, he told a Dáil committee that emergency legislation is needed to deal with any "unexpected market activity".

The energy regulation is to be given the power to alter licences in the event of certain things happening.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's public water company is stockpiling purification chemicals ahead of Brexit.

Northern Ireland Water said: "Our priority is to provide clean, safe drinking water to everyone in Northern Ireland."

Irish Independent