Farmers have welcomed confirmation that the important live export trade to Northern Ireland for slaughter cattle will continue.
IFA president Tim Cullinan said the NI market provides vital competition for Irish beef farmers with finished cattle, and has performed very strongly this year.
“Live exports to date this year to NI of over 60,000 cattle are primarily for direct slaughter, up 91% on 2019.”
He predicted this vital market outlet will grow further in 2021.
IFA has also welcomed the EU-UK withdrawal agreement’s protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland ensuring that the trade of about half a million pigs annually from south to north will remain open to farmers supplying the Karro plant in Cookstown, Co Tyrone.
The protocol ensures there is no hard border, no physical infrastructure, no checks or processes, and no customs duties or tariffs, in trade from north to south, and vice versa.
This also protects the important trade of 30% of Northern Ireland’s milk supplies, imported south of the border, where they make up 25% of the fresh liquid milk sales in the Republic.
And the protocol protects the live imports of more than 350,000 lambs annually from Northern Ireland for direct slaughter in the Republic.
Under the protocol, Northern Ireland remains in the EU single market for goods and will adhere to EU rules on food safety and animal health. That will require additional regulatory checks on food products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, and strict rules on movement of live animals, including pets.
There will be a three-month grace period for Northern Ireland traders to adjust to new arrangements, such as the requirement for export health certificates on food produce moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Another grace period has been agreed to allow the trade in chilled meats to continue for six months.
Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots, whose DUP party had voted against the protocol, has acknowledged that it is the law and said his role now is to try to mitigate its impact, such as extra bureaucracy for traders with Great Britain, and restrictions on imports from Great Britain of goods such as chilled meats.
But movement of animals and goods, including livestock and beef, between Northern Ireland and the EU will continue to be treated the same as intra-EU movements.
The protocol is subject to a consent mechanism after four years which requires approval by a simple majority of MLAs in the Northern Ireland assembly.