New beef markets won't compensate for Brexit losses
No new market for Irish beef will compensate for the huge loss to the industry that would follow as a result of Brexit, according to outgoing ICMSA president John Comer.
Speaking at the ICMSA AGM in Limerick, Mr Comer (pictured) said that while trade missions to new markets are to be welcomed, no new market will compensate.
"It is fine to say that we are having trade missions to open-up new markets - that work is welcome and important - but we're going to have to be honest with people: opening and developing new markets takes time and there's no possibility, none, that they will replace the UK market.
"Come spring 2019, we may need a new home for the 320,000t of beef that is currently sold to the UK.
"Why would the EU even contemplate offering at least 70,000t of beef to the Mercosur countries to conclude a deal?"
He said that many of the trade deals proposed by the EU are questionable but to be seriously considering such a deal at present is "reckless" and "utter madness".
Brexit and Mercosur are two of three significant threats that currently loom over the agri-food industry, he said, along with environmental pressures on farming and warned that dairy markets are being abused by large processors and retailers.
He said that there was a danger of fatally undermining family farm structures if action was not taken, and that the market did not set the price, but was rigged.
The outgoing ICMSA president called for farmer efforts on the environment to be recognised and he said that climate challenges will only be dealt with by everyone working together under elected governments and not by "quangos or unelected groups with grandiose-sounding names... the only citizens assembly that ICMSA will pay attention to is called Dáil Éireann".
He warned the mostly dairy farmer audience that the "talking down" of milk price by processors was an attempt to "soften us up" for milk price reductions in 2018 and he described the market structure that dictate farmer milk price as "rigged".
He said that the multiple retailers had destroyed the liquid milk market and he regretted to say that "our own processors were part of the problem", by selling liquid milk to large retailers at unsustainably low prices and passing the hit back to their milk suppliers.
Meanwhile, income at the organisation was back €252,198 on 2015.
According to ICMSA general secretary John Enright the organisation is linked to milk price and when milk prices fall, so too does the association's income.
ICMSA income was also impacted by reduced levies collected by the Larry Goodman-owned factories, while salaries, wages and superannuation costs were down almost €100,000.
It saw the Limerick-based organisation with an operating deficit of €39,967 for 2016, compared to an operating surplus of €116,318 in 2015, but it still holds a balance of almost €2m of cash in the bank.
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