UK meat processors say 'panic' gripping industry as EU buyers reduce orders
British meat processors have said a sense of panic is now gripping the UK meat industry amid claims the UK Government is frighting continental buyers with uncompromising threats of a no-deal Brexit.
Last week, Irish processors warned that UK purchasers of Irish beef were unwilling to confirm orders for autumn, which they say has added to a slump in beef prices.
British meat processors warned reduced orders from the EU will filter all the way back to farmers who will bear the brunt of this loss of trade.
"The message that the UK is serious about leaving with no deal may not have convinced European politicians yet, but it has convinced continental retail buyers who are refusing to agree long-term supply contracts with UK meat exporters," the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said in a statement this week.
It said if the situation continues, it could be the start of a structural and long-term decline of the UK's farming capacity and heritage. It is also likely to increase the volume of British meat on UK shelves, further impacting the Irish beef price.
"European buyers considering buying British meat are now being confronted with multiple risks which they’re not prepared to take.
"Chief among them is the possibility that they may well be saddled with tariffs as high as 65% on certain imports that are due for delivery after October 31.
"Committing to any orders or supply contracts that extend after the Brexit date therefore makes no sense whatsoever to our customers in Europe and, indeed, in the rest of the world," BMPA highlighted.
It also highlighted that insurers who cover these consignments and facilitate the movement of goods between countries are refusing to indemnify against losses related to a no-deal Brexit.
It said British meat companies are now being forced to export day to day at ‘spot prices’, and could see orders simply cease with no long-term supply contracts to soften the blow.
It comes as farmers from the Beef Plan Movement are picketing outside over 20 meat factories today as their protest continues into its second week.
Beef Plan chairman Hugh Doyle said the protests will continue this week. "We hope that Meat Industry Ireland will engage with us, but we are not prepared to ask farmers to stop protesting if there is nothing on the table.
"Our lines of communication are open. While this impasse continues the farmers of Ireland are asking us to continue our peaceful protest. In doing so, new factories will be added on a daily basis."
IFA treasurer Tim Cullinan called on the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, to intervene immediately in the beef crisis.
"It is unthinkable that a sector of the size and significance of the beef industry has been ignored by the Minister responsible.
"In no other sector of comparable scale would this have been allowed to happen," he said.