Farming and rural communities must be supported through Brexit process

The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have called for direct and indirect support to help our farming community through the Brexit process. Speaking to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine representatives of the organisation stressed the need for active support relevant to the final Brexit outcome.

In his address to the Oireachtas Committee Henry O’Donnell (INHFA Donegal) outlined the importance of ensuring continued access to the British market for the 250,000 tons of Irish beef worth €1.2 billion each year. It is he maintained, “vital that we get tariff free access to this market which can only be achieved through the finalisation of a deal. “Going forward O’Donnell outlined the threat posed to our farmers by future UK trade deals that could well see the importation of cheaper beef. With this in mind, he stressed the need for a change in direction for our suckler produced beef. Currently he stated “there are proposals to develop a unique Naturally Reared Suckler Beef Brand which can be targeted at the high-end British market delivering a much higher price that must be reflected back to the primary producer.”

O’Donnell also highlighted the increasing role Irish Meat Processors are playing in the British market where they now have as equally large a footprint as in Ireland. It is, he added “vital that they alone don’t get to dictate policy on beef as their policy is not always in the best interests of farmers.”

On Northern Ireland he stated “how there has to be free movement of goods and livestock across the border with no impediments. We must also ensure that goods produced in Britain which come into Northern Ireland must meet EU standards and do not contain ingredients from outside the EU that do not reach EU standards.”

In his address to the Committee Vincent Roddy (Director of Organisation) pointed to the opportunity provided by the large Irish population (including first and second generation) residing in Britain. There is, he stated an opportunity here that we need to capitalise on, and one that our potential competitors don’t have.”

On access to the European market where Irish meat and dairy exports are worth €3 billion each year, Roddy stressed the importance of ensuring produce to these markets continues to be delivered in a timely and efficient manner. Unfortunately, this will “provide us with a major problem as 85% of this trade is currently delivered through the UK land-bridge. The popularity of this option is based on it being the most efficient and reliable.”

Irrespective of the outcome of any final Brexit deal transporting through the land-bridge will be considerable slower and not as reliable which is, “why we need other options”, he added.

With the shortest sea route to Europe from the port of Rosslare with Cork and Waterford two other options, Roddy maintained how the only viable option is direct sailings on a roll-on roll-off basis from these ports to Europe.

In welcoming the recent announcement of a direct sailing from Rosslare to Dunkirk he stated “how we need at least one more daily sailing to a European port such as Cherbourg or Rosscoff. This will be vital not just for current trade but for possible additional trade in the event of a no-deal Brexit. In this scenario the UK will see a reduction in its current output of 100,000 tons of beef (valued at almost €500m) into Europe and a reduction in sheep meat sales valued at over €400m each year.”