Shipping cattle to Britain no antidote for Brexit pain, warn factories

Cattle arriving to Carrick on Suir Mart. Picture: Pat Moore
Cattle arriving to Carrick on Suir Mart. Picture: Pat Moore
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Meat processors have said that shipping cattle directly to Britain for processing will not be an 'antidote' to high tariffs that may be imposed on Ireland beef in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on The Future of the Beef Sector this week Meat Industry Ireland (MII) Director Cormac Healy said such a move would be 'counterproductive'.

He said not all cuts of beef are sold to the UK and moving the animal for processing in the UK would mean that beef would face even larger tariffs when exported back to the EU.

Chairman of MII, Philip Carroll said farmers are not being treated unfairly by processors and claimed that processors are having an extremely tough time in the market.

He said the industry needs to know that it will have some degree of support from around government around Brexit mitigation.

"There is a serious problem if we hit those tariff levels. They will devalue our product enormously if we have to go into the UK at lower price levels.

"All we can do in those circumstances to move product to other higher paying markets but, those markets will also be devalued as a result.

"We have been promised by Commissioner Hogan and the Government that they will have the industry's back.

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We faced Brexit in March and April and we may well have to face it again in May," he warned.

ICSA President Patrick Kent said Brexit has happened as far as beef farmers are concerned.

"It started happening long ago and has been used as an all-encompassing excuse by the meat industry to cut prices. The impact has been devastating and the agony has only been prolonged."

Mr Kent has called for a Brexit support package from Brussels for beef farmers who have struggled, and are continuing to struggle, with the impact of Brexit uncertainty fallout.

“ICSA estimates that prime beef producers are losing almost €4m a week on steers, heifers and young bulls compared to 2015, the last full year before Brexit. The base price today of €3.70 for an R grade steer is way below the real cost of production estimated to be at least €5/kg if we allow for a farmer’s own labour cost".

Mr Kent said that a package from Brussels should be directly linked to cattle slaughtered by winter finishers.

"Their losses in terms of price compared to last year vary but is typically in the order of €75-100/hd on heifers but can be as much as €200/hd on a typical young bull with account taken of price cut and weight penalties".

Online Editors

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