Industry warns of potential wipeout of beef production as UK Government confirms no agriculture border checks

Joe Healy on his farm near Athenry, Co Galway. Photo: Ray Ryan
Joe Healy on his farm near Athenry, Co Galway. Photo: Ray Ryan
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The President of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Joe Healy has warned that beef production in Ireland could potentially be wiped out if the UK crashes out of the EU.

He said the problems with currency volatility and the euro and Sterling exchange rate has already hit cattle prices this year and Irish farmers are down 20c/kg or over €70 per head on this time last year when prices had already been hit. 

"If the UK crashes out next March, we are facing a far more serious situation and the potential wipeout of beef production in this country,” he said.

The Irish beef sector currently accounts for over 30pc of the value of Irish agricultural output at producer prices. There are in the region of 79,000 farms with suckler cows and over 90,000 farms had beef cattle on their farm.

The beef output of Irish farming provides the key input to the Irish meat processing industry while the Irish meat processing sector employs over 13,000 people.

Mr Healy said with just 100 days to Brexit, there is massive concern among all farmers and especially livestock farmers about prices and exports to our most important export market in the UK.

“Our Taoiseach and Tanaiste have told us about all sorts of contingencies like customs posts and hiring extra vets, but we haven't heard anything about what plan has been put in place to protect Irish farmers, who are the most exposed in Europe.”

"The time has come for the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, along with the EU Commission, to come forward with a comprehensive programme of supports that will address the real issues around market supports and cattle prices.

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Joe Healy said IFA has already discussed the need for strong EU market supports with the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, but it is now time for the Government to set out their plan and exactly what market and other supports will be put in place.

Meanwhile, the UK Government committed to no immediate additional checks on agricultural products crossing the Irish border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In response to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee's report on Brexit and Agriculture, the government said it would take a "risk-based approach" to import checks, which will see no additional checks to begin with.

The Northern Irish Affairs Committee has called on the European Union to make a similar commitment following the government move. Chair of the Committee Dr Andrew Murrison MP said that the decision was a "step in the right direction".

"Farmers and producers across Northern Ireland have been crying out for some explanation from the Government of how they will be able to trade with Ireland after Brexit," Dr Murrison said.

"The Government's response to my Committee's report on agriculture commits to avoiding checks on agricultural products at the Irish border. This is a step in the right direction, but further clarity is still needed on the important issues of financial support, live animal exports and the agricultural work force.

"It is essential that exports of agricultural products to Ireland do not face unnecessarily stringent checks. The ball in now in the EU’s court to make a similar commitment to the UK."

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