January 8, 2019
Ireland industry leaders warn of 'no-deal' Brexit's impact on beef sector
A 'no-deal' Brexit could force a massive closure of beef production businesses in Ireland, with several farmers "on the brink of giving up" as it is not economical "to produce beef at current prices," said ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham.
The situation also threatens to exacerbate further due to a protest by temporary veterinary inspectors that has seriously impacted operations at Irish slaughter plants, Independent.ie reported.
Graham warned that 2019 could mark a turning point for beef farmers and called for a large scale "intervention buying of beef" in light of the UK's potential failure to secure a deal with the EU as well as the application of WTO tariffs.
Referring to an aid package that Ireland may receive from the EU, he urged Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed to quickly "get firm commitments" from the EU Commission" on the matter.
The package, based on Creed's estimation, would amount to "hundreds of millions." It would help support the Irish beef sector which is experiencing a persisting downtrend in factory prices. But the decision to the deal appears uncertain; IFA president Joe Healy had asked that Creed provides more details on the package Ireland intends to secure from the EU in the event of a 'hard' Brexit.
Add to the chorus of demands for Brexit-mitigating measures, IFA livestock chairman Angus Woods said that the agriculture minister should target a doubling of live exports this year from last year's level of 190,000 heads. Such a move would stimulate domestic competition for cattle, he explained.
"It is clear that a hard Brexit will cause havoc for Irish beef, and it is not in the interests of any other EU member state to have massive quantities of Irish beef floating around Europe if access to the UK market is uneconomic due to WTO tariffs," Graham cautioned.
A pre-Christmas slump in cattle prices has continued into 2019 as factory quotes stay unchanged and farmers struggle to get stocks slaughtered.
Base quotes for steers and heifers remain on EUR3.75/kg (US$4.29) and EUR3.85/kg (US$4.40) respectively, with cows making EUR2.50-2.80/kg (US$2.86-3.20) for' P' and 'O' grades, and up to EUR3/kg (US$3.43) for 'R' grades.
The problem is particularly acute for bulls, with factories showing very little interest in Friesian bulls. While coloured bulls are being quoted at EUR3.50-3.80/kg (US$4.01-4.35) for 'O' to 'U' grades, a flat price of EUR3.50/kg (US$4.01) is being paid for Friesians.