Fears meat processors could move live cattle to UK plants under no-deal Brexit
There are fears that Irish meat processors, which own plants in Ireland and the UK, could move live cattle for processing in UK plants in the event of a hard Brexit.
Speaking in the Dail today, Sinn Fein agriculture spokesman Martin Kenny said a number of Irish meat processors have plants in both Ireland and the UK and could move live cattle and workers to the UK and avoid higher tariffs on beef exports.
He said that by doing this, the processors would pay lower tariffs on live cattle than they would on processed beef exports, but that it could be detrimental to the beef sector in Ireland.
The Dail heard that around 16,000 workers are involved in the meat processing sector here.
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said the Government wants to protect the beef industry, but admitted there are lower tariffs schedules for live exports. “We are aware of all the possible consequences.”
He also said that ‘exceptional aid’ from Europe, in the case of a hard Brexit, is “where the game is at”, but did not say whether anything could be done to prevent processors moving their processing work to the UK.
The UK proposals suggest tariffs ranging from approximately €1,500/t on manufacturing beef up to over €2,500 per tonne on steak exports, in the case of a no-deal or hard Brexit.
Irish beef shipments to the UK of almost 250,000t last year equated to 57pc of total exports in terms of tonnage, and 52pc in terms of value.
However, the temporary tariffs on live exports are in the region of €93/100kg (plus 10pc). Some beef cuts face tariffs of up to €300/100kg (plus 12.8pc), with most high quality cuts facing tariffs of €176/100kg (plus 12.80pc) being applied.
IFA President Joe Healy said the focus of IFA is on support for beef farmers who has already suffered from the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Farmers selling cattle at a base price of €3.75/kg for steers and €3.85/kg for heifers are taking cuts of 20c-25c/kg below last year’s price levels, or reductions of up to €100 per head. Farmers selling young bulls have been hit for €200 per head.
In 2018, 73pc of the UK’s beef imports came from Ireland, with the vast majority of the rest being from other EU countries, with free access to the UK market.
This further threat to the Irish beef sector comes as the ESRI published a report showing that in terms of trade losses, it finds that agricultural and food products, textiles and traditional manufacturing sectors would be most affected by a no-deal hard Brexit, especially in the border, midland and western region and could hit the Irish economy harder than expected.