IFA warns of 'virtual wipe out' of food exports to UK

IFA warns of ‘virtual wipe out’ of food exports to UK

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) fears a “virtual wipe out” of food exports to the UK if there is no early trade deal with the EU. IFA chief economist Rowena Dwyer said trading under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules would mean punitive trade tariffs would render food exports “effectively uneconomic”. She was speaking at the launch of an IFA policy paper: “Brexit: The Imperatives for Irish Farmers & the Agri-Food Sector.”

IFA President Joe Healy said the implications for Irish agriculture are so serious that farming has to be first in the Government’s negotiating position.The UK is Ireland’s largest market for food and drink, accounting for 37% of all food and drink exports in 2016, or over €4.1 billion.

“Brexit is the most significant challenge facing our farming and food sector in the history of the State, with 40% of our food exports going to the UK. Simply put, no other Member State and no other sector is as exposed in these negotiations.

“UK is our closet market, of high value with similar preferences. The implications of a hard Brexit are stark: the ESRI estimates a potential reduction of EU trade to the UK of over 60% for dairy and 85% for meat. Translating this to an Irish context would mean a fall of €1.5bn in meat exports, with dairy exports falling by over €600m.”

Irish farming and the agri-food sector is particularly vulnerable to Brexit due to:

  • A high dependence on the UK market;
  • High EU tariff protection applying to major agricultural products;
  • The land border with Northern Ireland, with the potential to disrupt trade flows, and undermine animal health co-operation; and
  • The importance of the CAP budget to farm income – the UK is a net contributor.

The IFA has a clear set of objectives which it wants the Irish government to bring into the EU negotiating position:

“The optimum outcome for Irish farming and the agri-food sector is that the UK would remain within and fully compliant with the Single Market and Customs Union. If this outcome is not possible, the EU must seek to negotiate a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the EU and UK, which would include the following specific elements for agriculture and food:

• Tariff – free trade for agricultural products and food;

• Maintenance of equivalent standards on food safety, animal health, welfare and the environment; and

• Application of the Common External Tariff for imports to both the EU and UK.