Farm sector fears post-Brexit UK will turn to Argentine beef
Ireland's €2bn a year beef trade with the UK could be at risk if Britain leaves the European Union and strikes a "backdoor" agreement with South American production powerhouses Brazil and Argentina.
Philip Carroll, chairman of Meat Industry Ireland (MII), cautioned that a UK vote to leave the EU would have a "significant" impact and result in "high levels of uncertainty" over the coming years.
The warning came as Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Joe Healy said stakes were highest for farming and the agri-food sector with a dependence on the UK market for €4.4bn worth of exports.
He also warned the shared land border would be an issue, while if the UK were to withdraw it could also potentially impact on the money from Brussels available for farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as the UK is a net contributor to the EU budget of €8bn.
"Should the UK vote to leave the EU, Irish agriculture would undoubtedly suffer negative consequences, both in the short-term and the longer term," he said.
Mr Healy urged Irish families with relatives in the UK to communicate their concerns and the risks over a Brexit.
The UK accounts for 40pc of Irish agri products exported, including 50pc of beef, 60pc of cheese, almost 100pc of mushrooms and €350m worth of pigmeat.
IFA chief economist Rowena Dwyer said a shared land border may also result in animal health issues as there may be increased risks due to different regulations in place in both jurisdictions.