Farm Ireland

Thursday 23 November 2017

Brexit threat to bloodstock sales

Altior winning at Cheltenham 2016
Altior winning at Cheltenham 2016
Siobhan English

Siobhan English

The fluctuation of sterling in recent months has had a negative impact on thoroughbred sales in Ireland, Charles O'Neill of Irish Thoroughbred Marketing has warned.

There has been a noticeable slowdown in inward investment since Britain voted to leave the EU, Mr O'Neill told a recent Brexit event for the equestrian and greyhound sectors.

The possible introduction of tariffs on buyers could lead to further problems for the industry here, said Mr O'Neill. "We cannot afford to become complacent and must do everything possible to ensure that the British continue to support our bloodstock sales here," he said, with last autumn's Flat Yearling sale feeling the impact of sterling.

There are also concerns about the potential impact of Brexit on the Tripartite Agreement (TPA) which facilitates the free movement of horses between Ireland, Britain and France.

Mr O'Neill particularly referred to trainers in the south wishing to run horses across the border.

"Some 90pc of horses that run in the likes of Downpatrick are trained in Southern Ireland. There is a worry that if 'hard borders' are put in place, that number will be affected."

He said that some 3,000 mares travel to Ireland from France each year, with the UK being used as a stop-over. "Any disruption to this would be a worry," he said.

Mr O'Neill also stressed the importance of the IRE suffix for thoroughbreds and said that this must be retained at all cost.

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Several members of the industry from across the border were present, and Mr O'Neill said that it is important that everyone works together to protect this lucrative industry.

"We ask that everyone use their contacts in Government to ensure they know how big our industry is and how important it is to rural Ireland. We have a ready-made solution - we need to keep the system that works. We need to maintain our status quo," he concluded.

Speaking after the event in Portlaoise, Minister Michael Creed said: "We are all familiar with the important economic, social and cultural roles that the equine and greyhound sectors play in Ireland, to the great benefit of rural communities in particular. It is also true to say that they are among the most highly integrated sectors with their UK counterparts, from both a North-South and East-West perspective.

"It is vitally important, therefore, that we ensure that we have a full understanding of all of the issues at play for these sectors as we respond to the Brexit challenge."

‘We need a transitional period to put a plan in place’

The free movement of horses between Ireland, Britain and France is vital to safeguard the future of the sport horse industry which is worth over €700m to the Irish economy and employs over 12,000 people full-time.

“There is a lot of uncertainty and people are cautious due to the fluctuations in sterling, but we need to have a contingency plan in place down the road,” Elaine Hatton, Horse Sport Ireland director of international marketing, told the recent equestrian Brexit event in Portlaoise.

 It is estimated that British buyers annually account for some 50pc of purchases of sport horses at public auctions in Ireland, with several thousand more changing hands in private transactions.

One of the key issues raised at the event was the future of the  Tripartite Agreement (TPA).

Established in 2014, this allows certain categories of horses, specifically thoroughbreds and sport horses, to be exempted from the requirement for pre-export inspection and official certification, when moving to and from France.

Ms Hatton stressed that this agreement must remain in place, specifically mentioning the cause for concern in relation to horse welfare.

“We cannot have a case where mares being taken across the border are delayed for several hours due to Border controls. This will not only stress the mare, and possibly a foal at foot, but will also disrupt her cycle, resulting in the loss of a covering.”

On the other hand, she said that free movement of horses between the UK and outside the EU could have a catastrophic effect in the control of equine diseases such as African Horse Sickness which, to date, has never been recorded in Ireland.

Minister Creed pointed out that Ireland has one of the highest standards when it comes to animal welfare and it is critical that we maintain this at all cost. “Borders are important, particularly in relation to disease control,  but we hope that common sense will prevail and we will not have lines of horseboxes waiting for clearance.

“Unfortunately Brexit is going to be around for a long time to come but we need to make sure we have a transitional period so we can put a plan in place,” he added.

The free movement of people was also discussed and Ms Hatton outlined the importance of maintaining this in order to facilitate non-EU staff within the equine industry.

“The general consensus is that we need to make more noise about how important the equine industry is to rural Ireland. We have some of the best horses and riders in the world,” she added.


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