No-deal Brexit would end cross-border sheep trade
Brexit could cause serious difficulties for the Irish sheep processing sector, Bord Bia's Declan Fennell told last week's Meat Marketing Seminar.
Pointing out that 432,000 head were imported from Northern Ireland for processing in the South last year, he said these animals would be subject to WTO tariffs of 85.5c/kg in the event of a 'no deal' Brexit. This could effectively end the cross-border trade.
Such a move would have massive implications for the viability of the country's sheep processors, Mr Fennell added.
He predicted a reduction in the national sheep kill to just under three million head this year on the back of an increase in throughput in the factories in 2018 and lower numbers of available spring lambs due to the last spring's cold snap.
Mr Fennell told the seminar that African Swine Fever in China could lead to an increased demand for sheepmeat in China.
However, in the last year he said that sheep skins which are destined for China are making just €1/kg compared to €3.50/kg in 2015 due to increased import controls.
This year is likely to see a continuation of the marketing diversification drive which has resulted in emerging markets taking around 50pc of the €315m in sheepmeat exports.
Diversified, high-value markets such as Belgium, Germany and Sweden, which now account for 29pc of export values, continue to out-perform others both in value and volume growth.
Bord Bia has been developing deeper market and consumer understanding in these key markets to support exporters.
Niche markets have also helped drive export diversification.
More than 13,000 light lambs have been sold to Nordic and southern European markets so far this winter under the initiative by the INHFA and Kepak.
Between 600 and 700 light lambs a week were moved before Christmas. The product is being marketed as Atlantic Hill Lamb, with farmers being paid close to French prices for suitable stock.
Meanwhile, farmers remain confident that lower number of hoggets on the market this spring will see prices strengthen further.
Although external factors such as British exports, the strength of sterling and imports from New Zealand will undoubtedly impact the Irish hogget trade, farmer representatives are confident that lower numbers will help keep a floor on prices above €5/kg.
The convergence of the Easter and Ramadan festivals this year is also expected to drive demand through April and early May.
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