Brexit crisis: ‘Beef farmers are on their knees already’
Edmund Graham, a beef farmer on the Border, is already counting the economic impact of Brexit.
“With beef farmers you might say Brexit has happened already with the cuts in beef prices,” says the father-of-three who is raising his family just a mile from Monaghan town. “Beef farmers are already on their knees and can’t bear any further blows.”
Edmund, who has been farming for 40 years, questions who is going to bear the costs of the potential tariffs on the vital UK beef trade in the case of a no-deal Brexit. “If it is pushed back on the primary producer then it is curtains for us all.”
He also feels the circumstances being suggested in relation to produce travelling to Northern Ireland may lead to a rise of smuggling. “It must be avoided at all costs,” he says.
With 500 cattle aged up to two years, Edmund has been taking cuts of up to €200 a head on animals since November as uncertainty has already taken its toll on beef prices. “I’ve suffered losses already. If there are more then we might as well just close up shop,” he says. Edmund points out that it is different for beef farmers as the production of an animal can take up to 30 months, so many have a lot of stock already in their systems. Others, like Edmund, will be headed to the marts to buy stock for summer grazing.
“I’ve a lot of stock in hand and I’ve more to buy in,” says Edmund, who is the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) beef chair.
He also buys animals for other farmers and travels through Northern Ireland to deliver them to Donegal.
In addition, he brings animals for slaughter to Foyle Meats in Donegal via Northern Ireland. “Would I be able to get my produce up through Northern Ireland to go to the factories?” he questions. Otherwise, it means an extra three hours to drive the lorry on main roads via Sligo. “It all has a knock on effect,” he says. “State aid to get us out of a hole is not the answer.”
After farming all his life, Edmund says oldest son is eager to farm but he wants him to have an education so he has options to generate money off farm as well.
“It is the family farms that are totally dependent on farming that will be hardest hit,” he says, with tens of thousands of those farms in parishes throughout the country.