Beef Plan queries Brexit preparations, practices and potential markets

Questions have to be put to the Irish meat processors as to why more hasn’t been done to put alternative markets in place to ease the reliance on UK markets for beef exports, according to the Beef Plan Movement.

Speaking to AgriLand, Beef Plan Movement co-founder and chairman Eamon Corley gave his reaction on the UK’s proposed tariffs that will come into effect in the event of a no-deal Brexit – with the UK departure day just 16 days away.

Commenting on the situation, Corley said: “Farmers hope that it will never come to that or that it doesn’t come to that. I suppose the next couple of days are going to tell exactly what’s going to happen.

“The Government have said that it has made preparations in the event of this so it will be interesting to see what preparations it has actually made.

I know the factories have known about Brexit for two years and questions have to be asked  [such as] why haven’t they done more to put alternative markets in place?

“We know there’s 12 licences pending for mainland China and I suppose questions have to be asked [such as] why have they not been brought to fruition at this stage?”

The chairman said that there is a growing market for beef in China, adding that this has been the case for the last couple of years.

“You’d imagine it would have made sense with this possibility around the corner that more effort would have been made to put alternative markets in place such as China and America for example.

Compensation

“If it does transpire that Irish beef is priced out of the UK market, the fact that we currently export 55% of our beef there, you would be really talking about a compensation package short term that’s going to compensate for that.

“Now at the moment – well, basically since last October – Irish prices have been back substantially on the same period a year ago – which can only be related to the Brexit that was in pending.

“I think the compensation package is going to have to be backdated to last October because the prices currently and since last October have been well back.

 I think for heifers and steers have been back maybe €100-150/head and for bulls they have been back maybe €240/head. Then cows are back at a similar level, about €200/head on the corresponding period last year and have been since last October.

Corley said that hopefully it won’t come to that, adding that the next few days will tell whether Irish beef is going to be priced out of not.

If it is, however, he said it’ll really be up to the Government and the EU now to step up to the mark if that is the case.

Questions

“Questions already have to be put to the factories why they haven’t been putting alternative markets in place.

“I think the overall problem in the beef sector is basically the anti-competitive practices that have driven the beef industry to its knees even prior to Brexit.

In many cases the factories have used Brexit to drag prices down even more than they should be at this stage.

“Regardless of the outcome of Brexit that’s a situation that needs to be sorted. It’s probably particularly prevalent the fact that Brexit is now looming,” Corley concluded.

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