The current negotiations between the UK and Australia on a zero-tariff, zero-quota trade deal have been described as the ‘elephant in the room’ by Labour Party agriculture and food spokesperson, Seán Sherlock.

Speaking on a motion relating to beef farming in the Dáil this week, he said he is “fearful of global deals impacting Irish primary producers”.

Trade deal conclusion

“My understanding is they are teeing it up for the G7 summit in Cornwall. I am fearful about that deal because it will have major consequences for Irish primary producers, including Irish beef and sheep farmers.

“If the deal concludes, the permutations are such that it will allow Australia to ship beef and lamb without tariff to the UK.”

Impact on Irish exports

Deputy Sherlock said he is keen to hear government’s perspective and what kind of forward planning it is doing to mitigate the effects for Irish farmers.

“We know the nature of farming in Australia. If they are able to export to the UK, it will have dire consequences for UK farmers and for Irish farmers.

“What real-time planning is taking place and what mitigation measures will the government undertake to ensure Irish farmers are supported?

“If there is a significant loss of income and loss of what is a vital market, what is the government doing to offset that potential loss?” he asked.

China position

Deputy Sherlock also queried the status of Ireland’s trading relationship with China, a question that has also been raised by a number of farming organisations recently.

“It would be useful to know the value, in euro terms, and the status of our trading relationship with China at present in respect of beef exports.

“It is a growing market and a vital one, given the primacy of Irish beef. I hope we will not be locked out of that market for too much longer.

“It would be useful for Irish farmers in the export game to know the status of that market. It would be useful for them to know where the government is at present in its diplomatic efforts to restore and enhance that market.”