Beef still locked into UK market

Half a century ago in the cattle marts of the Republic’s border counties, beef animals were usually driven into the sale ring ten at a time. Often some wise old head would say: “Of course, we can only eat one of them. The other nine have to go on the boat.” With a rising population and more prosperity, nowadays we can probably eat two and a bit, but the fundamental truth remains that there are twice as many cattle as people in Ireland. Most of the cattle still have to go on the boat to England, nowadays mostly as sides of “swinging beef” hooked on racks in a refrigerated container. The old truth also applies to pigmeat and the most exposed of all is poultry, as Bord Bia chairman Michael Carey wrote in the Irish Times on Wednesday.

” …in many product sectors, the UK remains fundamental to the success of Irish businesses. For prepared consumer foods, the UK accounts for 65 per cent of all exports. More than half of our beef and pig meat exports and 84 per cent of Irish poultry exports finds a way to UK-based customers.”

This harsh reality demands a clear political response: “The UK is simply too important to abandon. For Ireland’s most important indigenous industry, it is crucially important that an accommodation is negotiated to allow this trade to continue and further develop.