Tipperary farming and industry is facing a huge threat if UK imposes its proposed tariffs under a no deal Brexit
Tipperary farming is set to be a big loser under any tariff system imposed on Irish agriculture if the UK crashes out of the EU on March 29.
There has already been swift reaction and dire warnings from the Tipperary president of ICMSA Pat McCormack and North Tipperary IFA chair Imelda Walsh to the publication of proposed UK tariffs on Irish agriculture, which were revealed this Thursday, March 13.
Mr McCormack said this Wednesday referring specifically to his Tipperary base, that the impact of the tariffs would be "catastrophic" and would severely impact on a centuries-old and multi-billion Euro food trade between Tipperary and Great Britain.
Mr McCormack said that the immediate effect would be on Irish beef and dairy products where UK consumers’ prices would have to rise substantially and, even then, the level of tariff would make the trade completely unviable.
Mr McCormack said that the effects would be felt quite literally in every parish from the perimeter of Dublin Airport westwards to Connemara and from Malin Head south to Mizen Head.
But it would be especially damaging to an intensive food-producing county like Tipperary with its crucial dairy base that supplies approximately 15% of all the milk produced in the state.
Farming and food production was not just a component of Ireland’s rural economy, he said, in very large parts of Ireland it was the effective total economy and in the same way as farming and food acted as a positive multiplier when it was going well, the negative effects that would result from the imposition of tariffs on food exported to Britain would work as a negative multiplier effect in the wider rural economy on machinery, construction, feed and services.
He reminded everyone that ICMSA had warned last summer against the tactic of overtly prioritising the "North-South political" over the "East-West economic" and had asked the Government at that stage to consider giving them parity of focus in their strategy.
That had not happened and ICMSA’s worst fears about drifting towards what would be an economic catastrophe for rural Ireland were now being borne out.
The vote this Wednesday night in the House of Commons was absolutely critical and the option of a no deal Brexit must be categorically and finally ruled out if we are to avoid an unprecedented shock to the Irish agri-food sector, said Mr McCormack.
Meanwhile, Ms Walsh said as each new day dawns in the whole Brexit scenario,Tipperary farmers were "hugely worried" that their industry will be wiped out.
Here in north Tipperary we have Arrabawn Co-op, Abp and Ashbourne meats, which highlights the importance of the agri-industry to the area.
"If a no deal Brexit happens it will be detrimental to the area, and not only to farmers, the many people who are employed in the agri-industry will also be affected as will the many businesses in the area," she said.
Ms Walsh said that this was happening at a time when livestock farmers were under severe threat of survival as they had been since the Brexit vote in June 2016 which saw 10c/kg knocked off the price of beef the following morning and has continued in a downward spiral ever since.
"It will also have huge ramifications on the dairy side of things also with half the Cheddar cheese on the UK market coming from milk produced on our farms. Optimism is beginning to fade in our industry that an agreement can be reached that will protect our farming families here in north Tipperary and our farmers in the Republic of Ireland," she said.
ICSA president Patrick Kent said that the announcement crystallised its worst fears of the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the Irish beef sector.
"This announcement will cause dismay and we cannot underestimate the potential devastation to beef farming," he said.
Mr Kent said that while the beef rate could have been even higher, the distinction was academic as it posed an immense barrier to continued beef exports to the UK.
"In the short term, we should expect that contracts already signed with UK supermarkets will be honoured but in this kind of scenario all bets are off. In any event, it is certain that these tariffs will soon begin to cause calamity for our beef exports," he said.
Under UK proposals, while there will be no tariffs on produce going north of the border, trade across the Irish Sea will be severely hit.
Ireland carries out around €1m in trade with Northern Ireland but €65bn with the UK directly.
But it is not just the farming sector that will be hit as many companies throughout Tipperary, including, among others C&C in Clonmel, and Carey Glass in Nenagh trade with the UK, along with pharmaceutical companies.
There could also be uncertainty around the horse racing industry as checks are likely to hit the movement of animals to meetings across the UK.
The British government announced its planned tariffs this Wednesday morning and while it will not introduce any new checks or controls on goods moving across the land border into Northern Ireland if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, tariffs will be payable on goods moving from the EU into the rest of the UK via Northern Ireland.
Under the Most Favoured Nation World Trade Organisation principle, which would most likely apply, it would mean that the same tariffs must be applied to any trading partner, unless an exception applies, for example, that a trading agreement is in place, beef could face tariffs of 53%, with 60% on poultry and 13% on pig meat, 32% on butter and 13% on Chedder cheese.