Meat Industry Ireland (MII) spokesman Cormac Healy says the organisation has had constant contact with customers, sister organisations and government departments on the Brexit situation.
II has stressed some key points on Brexit:
- the Agri-food supply chain between Ireland and the UK is deeply intertwined and has huge reciprocal dependency;
- from a meat perspective, and particularly beef, the UK market is not self-sufficient and has a high requirement for fresh beef, pork and lamb imports;
- supply of fresh product would be hard for the UK to source elsewhere. We have over the years developed a very sophisticated logistics platform with just in time delivery.
The risk to these advantages are delays and new costs arising from new customs/veterinary checks would impact on delivery systems.
“However, were we to face significant tariffs on meat products in the future, nearness to market, fresh supply and just in time delivery would not alone be sufficient to offset the burden of a 70-80pc import tariff,” he warned.
“We are not only concerned about the delays/disruption to trade directly with the UK post Brexit in terms the reintroduction of cumbersome customs and veterinary checks, but also the impact of this on the use of the UK as a land bridge to the Continent.
“The vast majority of Irish meat exports to the Continent transit the UK. How would this be managed in the context of the UK becoming a non-EU third country. Would we be faced with the reintroduction of veterinary certification for our exports to the EU Continent if we transit the UK?” he said. “This will be an important issue to be addressed whether it is a hard or soft Brexit.”
Mr Healy said only three of the UK’s top 10 retail chains actually stock Irish beef and seldom stock Irish lamb. However, the UK is about 76pc self-sufficient in beef so it has massive import needs.
“British retail, in particular, but also the major food service operators and key manufacturers have been responsible for driving food safety standards over the years, some of which have led to EU legislative initiatives in the area. It is very unlikely they would reverse course by accepting hormone treated beef or pork.”