UK imports of Irish beef rise in October as no-deal Brexit looms

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

UK imports of fresh/frozen beef from Ireland rose, by 6pc to total 18,700 tonnes, according to latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs.

This is despite total UK fresh/frozen beef imports being down by 3pc in October 2018 compared to the previous year.

Shipments to the UK totalled 25,000 tonnes in October with a number of smaller suppliers delivering less volume.

Shipments from the Netherlands, Poland and Germany all declined in October.

Despite October imports falling away slightly, shipments of beef to the UK for 2018 up to October are still 6pc higher than the previous year at 238,000 tonnes.

Ireland is responsible for the majority of the increase (+13,000 tonnes), with shipments totalling 170,000 tonnes.

However, Tom Forshaw of the AHDB in the UK highlighted that South American countries of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina made significant gains into the UK market this year, however still represent a small portion of overall imports.

'No-deal' warning

It comes as Irish meat processors issued a warning of the 'catastrophic' impact a no-deal Brexit would have on the sector.

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n a document, submitted to members of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee and seen by FarmIreland, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) said A ‘hard Brexit’, with the potential imposition of very high tariffs on trade with the UK, together with additional transport costs, delays at borders, disruptions to logistics, as well as unforeseen threats arising from potential regulatory divergence, will present a massive challenge for the sector.

"A No-Deal (hard) Brexit outcome would be catastrophic for Irish agriculture and our food export business," the organisation warned.

MII warned that in a hard Brexit scenario where Ireland is, de facto, excluded from the UK market, the likelihood is that an immediate crisis will happen.

"The impact on EU markets will be immediate, with surplus product being exported onto already well-supplied markets resulting in a price collapse," it said.

MII warned that it is inevitable that producer prices will fall as a direct result of the loss of UK market share.

It said where the best returns are currently obtained, and, in the absence of viable substitute markets, there will be no refuge from declining returns in a distressed market.

"In an oversupplied market of the scale envisaged, processing companies will quickly examine and respond to the new market circumstances while taking steps to bring operational capability into line with new market realities.

"With a sudden and significant reduction in access to the UK market, plant closures or restricted operations should be anticipated," it said.

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