No-deal Brexit would push up sheep prices but lead to welfare crisis for pig sector

11/4/2019 Loughrea Sheep Mart
Michael Conroy from Headford loads up his newly bought Spring Lamb at Loughrea Mart.
Photo Brian Farrell
11/4/2019 Loughrea Sheep Mart Michael Conroy from Headford loads up his newly bought Spring Lamb at Loughrea Mart. Photo Brian Farrell
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A no-deal Brexit will cause serious difficulties for both the sheep and pig slaughtering sectors, as well as for the dairy industry.

Close to 420,000 sheep slaughtered in Irish plants in 2018 were sourced in Northern Ireland. This represents around 14pc of the total throughput in Southern plants.

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The loss of this supply source because of a no-deal Brexit could push up prices for Southern lamb producers - it is predicted that sheep prices will rise by between 9pc and 12pc in the event of a no-deal Brexit - but it would be a disaster for Northern Irish farmers.

The UFU admitted that a no-deal Brexit will pose a financial and logistical nightmare for Northern Irish sheep farmers.

"Around 400,000 sheep go to the Republic of Ireland every year, if this trade stops overnight it will have a significant impact on producers," said UFU president Ivor Ferguson.

"In a no-deal situation, the UFU has called for the [British] government to bring in reciprocal tariffs. Also, it will be likely that family-run farm businesses will require financial assistance to mitigate the damage from a no-deal Brexit."

Cull

The farm organisations in Britain have warned that a major cull of the country's sheep flock will be required should the UK crash out of the EU.

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The UK is one of the world's leading sheepmeat producers, with over 30 million sheep and around 16 million breeding ewes. However, 90pc of the 80,000t of sheepmeat Britain exports annually goes to the EU - primarily France.

Ireland faces the opposite challenge with regard to pigs. In the region of 470,000 pigs produced in the South were slaughtered by processors in Northern Ireland last year.

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has warned that any restrictions on the movement of pigs across the border would give rise to a major processing capacity issue which in turn could result in on-farm welfare concerns on some Irish pig units as numbers back up.

MII has called for state aid measures to be put in place to support investment in additional processing, chilling and storage capacity to adequately deal with the threat of a no-deal Brexit.

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