Calves being sold for as little as 50 cent as Brexit fallout hits home – Dáil told

Calves after moved out after the sale at Kilkenny Mart. Photo: Roger Jones.
Calves after moved out after the sale at Kilkenny Mart. Photo: Roger Jones.
John Downing

John Downing

Calves are being sold for just 50 cent as Ireland’s beef sector, already badly hit by low prices, now faces huge Brexit tariffs on its €1bn UK export market, the Fianna Fáil leader has told the Dáil.

Micheál Martin said the Irish Government should now be actively seeking emergency EU aid for Irish farmers and food processors.  He said the Government must also ensure that cheap South American meat exports are not allowed into the EU as he warned about the impact of potential UK tariffs unveiled today in event of a no-deal Brexit.

“The tariff regime would wipe out the beef industry,” Mr Martin told the Dáil.

The Fianna Fáil leader said EU provisions for emergency aid, under the so-called article 219, must now be sought by Ireland in Brussels.

Replying for the Government, Tánaiste Simon Coveney, said the State was in close contact with the EU Commission on these issues.  He said that just today a team from the Agriculture Department was in Brussels meeting EU officials.

Mr Coveney said already the EU had raised the ceiling on permitted state aids to farmers from €15,000 to €25,000.  He added that today’s announcements on UK tariffs would only apply if there was a no-deal Brexit which could be averted.

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The Tánaiste said in the next 48 hours – following important votes in the British parliament – things may become clearer about Brexit.

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Plans by Britain to levy import tariffs on beef, lamb and dairy products if it crashes out of the EU without a deal would be potentially disastrous for Irish farmers, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said.

"This is potentially a disaster, yes," Creed told national broadcaster RTE.

"We're involved now in a very detailed analysis of what the implications are (and)'s not a pretty picture... But this is in the event of no deal and we're not there yet."

Creed said officials from his department were in Brussels on Wednesday for further discussions on interventions that would be required in response.

The Department of Agriculture said the document published by the UK Govt in relation to the border states the proposed arrangements would be temporary and they would need to engage with the EU.

In other words, they would need to agree a deal on how to deal with the border long term.

 It also said the UK documents do not take account of WTO obligations. In a crash out scenario, the UK would have to comply with WTO rules.

 "We will continue to ensure that our support for companies evolve in line with changing circumstances, recognising in particular, the vulnerability of the Irish agri-food sector.

 "In the event of no deal, the government will look for further relaxation of state aid rules and for EU supports for business and agribusiness.

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