Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Tillage sector faces serious disruption from Brexit

Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

IRELAND’S tillage sector could experience considerable disruption and dislocation from a ‘Hard Brexit’, Professor Jimmy Burke of UCD claimed.

However, he expressed confidence that a vibrant tillage industry would survive the challenge because the manufacturing feed industry could not operate without the “strategic supplies” local growers provided.

Prof Burke said Ireland’s dependence on imported feedstuffs meant that domestic cereal growers were not as dependent on export markets.

However, he pointed out that the interdependence of the Irish and British supply chains meant that Ireland exported between 300,000t and 400,000t of grain to Britain and Northern Ireland annually, and this trade would be directly affected.

Speaking at an Agriculture Post-Brexit Conference at the Lismullin Institute in Co Meath, Prof Burke said that Brexit would have a very localised as well as national impact.

He pointed out that growers in the northeast were particularly exposed to Brexit, as much of the local trade in cereals and straw is with Northern buyers.

He estimated that the imposition of trade tariffs would add around €40m to the cost of Irish exports, and this did not take account of currency fluctuations.

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On the overall reduction in the national cereal acreage, Prof Burke said it was essential that “the slippage” of grain crops from vulnerable areas in the west, midlands and northeast was halted.

“The tillage sector is going through a tough time at present and it is vital for producers to carefully assess what type of tillage operation works best in the current environment,” he said.

“The tillage sector in Ireland must move towards supplying the correct grain, at the correct specification, to the correct market place. End-use requirements both for food and feed will be of paramount importance,” Prof Burke pointed out.

Meanwhile, Irish MEP, Mairead McGuinness, told the conference that the Brexit debate was being drowned in a “clamour for headlines”.

“Brexit will happen. We know the challenges, therefore, there is a requirement and obligation upon all involved in politics to work towards an agreement which will see Irish issues identified and addressed,” she said.

“We must absolutely avoid a return to the borders of the past on this island,” the MEP added.

Online Editors