Analysis indicates depressed beef price is linked to Brexit

One of the key measures the beef industry and Agriculture Minister Michael Creed could carry out now is to spell out the possible consequences of Brexit for beef farmers.

Analysis indicates depressed beef price is linked to Brexit

By Stephen Cadogan

One of the key measures the beef industry and Agriculture Minister Michael Creed could carry out now is to spell out the possible consequences of Brexit for beef farmers.

Already, there is speculation in farming circles that the depressed price of beef and cattle now is due to the Brexit process and its deadlines.

With Irish beef exports up by 6% this year, compared to 2017, and March 29 , 2019, being the earliest date the UK could leave the EU, it is unlikely Brexit is a factor in the beef and cattle market yet.

Whether that is the case or not should be explained by the Minister and by beef processors to farmers.

It is not surprising beef farmers are worried about Brexit, as they search around for explanations as to why the price of cattle is falling at beef factories week after week, even while prices are rising in the UK, which takes about half of the beef produced in Ireland.

Spelling out what is happening in the market, and whether Brexit is a factor, other than through its ongoing effect on the sterling-euro exchange rate, could reassure cattle farmers.

Farmers know Brexit crunch time is approaching, with progress at the European Council meeting on October 18 necessary to improve the Brexit picture.

At that meeting, the EU is due to decide if conditions are sufficient to call an extraordinary summit in November to finalise and formalise a Bexit deal.

Ireland, of course, wants to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would affect us worse than the EU or the UK.

Soon enough, Brexit will begin to affect the €1 billion per week of trade between Ireland and the UK.

That includes 50% of our beef, and even more of our dairy and timber products, exported to the UK.

It is a tribute to these exporting industries that they have not let the Brexit spectre deter them; instead they are increasing their exports to the UK year-on-year, even as the shadow of the UK leaving the EU hangs over them.

But it is getting closer to the endgame, and as nerves are tested, the businesses farmers deal with should start spelling out their plans, and keeping farmers well informed of how and when their sales of cattle, milk, livestock, and crops will be affected.

Keeping farmers in the loop as trusted partners in the business is necessary if farmers are to play their part in the recovery from Brexit.

Some are warning that Brexit could finish family farming in Ireland.

This is presumably based on worst case scenarios of World Trade Organisation rules applying to the dairy sector, and Ireland losing 40% of its dairy trade, and 35% of our beef trade, by 2030.

If Britain chooses to join the European Economic Area after Brexit, Ireland will lose 15% of its exports to the UK, it is suggested.

At best, the Brexit impacts will probably be delays, with new customs procedures and delays at the ports in Dublin, Dover and Calais. All this will impact on the cost of trade, and unfavourable fluctuations in currency between the pound and the euro, which can severely impact exporters’ cash flow overnight.

Already, the Government has approved recruitment of up to 1,000 customs and veterinary officers for our ports and airports to deal with the east-west implications.

Farmers have a grievance that they are still waiting for a Brexit response loan schemes for farmers and fishermen that Minister Creed announced 12 months ago.

That is not good service for sole traders whose families are depending on reasonably buoyant agricultural markets, as they face the existential hard Brexit threat, and fear that they are being kept in the dark.

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