BEEF and Brexit go hand in and Agriculture Minister Michael Creed is confident that, while there will be changes and challenges ahead, there is a future for the beef farmers in West Cork.
‘As Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, I know that there are challenges ahead but I am confident that this sector, which is rooted in the rural economy, will survive and prosper long after the Brexit agenda is resolved,’ Minister Creed said.
‘Unfortunately, in the context of Brexit, the future won’t be as efficient as the market currently is because if you are outside the Customs Union, the Single Market and outside the reach of the Court of European Justice, then it is a different trading relationship and it will add costs and administrative difficulties, it will take a re-engineering of supply chains, but these are challenges we will over come.’
Minister Creed told The Southern Star that his is ‘exceptionally concerned’ about what might happen to the agri-food sector, and in particular the beef sector, when the UK leaves the EU.
‘In terms of European Commission support in the event of a hard Brexit and especially in beef sector if should there be a hard Brexit there will be what’s known as exceptional aid,’ Minister Creed said.
‘We want to keep our beef on the supermarket shelves instead of it going into cold storage. We need to navigate the crisis and come out the far side of the future trading relationship with our market share intact and not have our beef replaced by another product.’
Minister Creed said that the government is actively pushing beef farmers to get involved in producer groups: ‘We are late to the game on this one, but if beef farmers organise as a group, not only can they leverage on price but they can also leverage on input costs,’ he said.
‘We are actively looking to drive the live export market because this is an important safety valve and it drives competition as well. The figures speak for themselves, we have 241,000 of live export in 2018, which is and increase of 30% on 2017.
‘I will be travelling to Turkey over the next few weeks for talks on re-starting live exports there and we are also pushing China and across North Africa for markets that we are confident will grow.’
However, with all the uncertainty for beef farmers at the moment, Minister Creed remains confident: ‘I think there is a future for the beef farmers of West Cork and I don’t say that lightly. ‘We are facing into a new CAP reform process and I think the challenge will be acknowledge that there is a cohort of farmers there that have relatively small payments, that need to be supported in a stronger way to keep them attached to the farming enterprise,’ Minister Creed said.