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John FitzGerald: Brexit prospects are bleak for beef producers

The UK is currently the largest single market for Irish exports of food and agricultural produce, accounting for some 40 per cent of all such trade. And while food now only accounts for 10 per cent of overall Irish goods exports, because of the high domestic value added, it matters to the wider economy.

All the studies on Brexit point to problems ahead for the Irish food and agriculture sectors. Even under the most favourable circumstances – where the UK remains in the EU customs union – food producers would still face challenges.

Under the least favourable outcome of a “hard” Brexit, the Irish food sector will be the hardest hit. World Trade Organisation rules would see tariffs of 50 per cent or more imposed on dairy produce and meat exported to the UK.

It’s also unclear what the effects of any divergence in UK food standards post-Brexit would be.

EU entry and the application of CAP to Ireland raised Irish farmers’ incomes by 80 per cent between 1971 and 1973. This reflected the fact that the EU market severely restricted imports from outside the EU of products which Irish farmers produced, guaranteeing high prices.

Even today, after significant opening up of the EU market, the beef prices our farmers receive are well above world levels.

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