Tipperary farming facing double whammy of lockdown and no deal Brexit
Tipperary's farm leaders have reacted to the prospect of the farm sector facing the perfect storm with the threat of a move to Level 5 restrictions due to Covid-19 numbers increasing, and the continuing threat of a no deal Brexit.
"Obviously these are worrying times for us all and in ICMSA we always believe in starting with the data. The hard facts will give you the firm foundation from which to build an answer,” said Pat McCormack, the Tipperary town farmer and president of ICMSA.
Mr McCormack said that the question of Level 5 restrictions was an enormous matter and the most careful consideration had to be given to it because we knew that our health service simply couldn’t accommodate the numbers if the current growth in numbers continued.
"If the data and the scientists tell us that the way to halt and reverse the climbing numbers is a an intense but firmly specified period then I’m sure we can do that again. But that will have to be specified and it will have to enforced.
"I know only too well the kind of crushing blow this represents to the hospitality sector, but I would tend to side with the scientific argument that says the faster we deal with this then faster we get back to something approaching normality," he said.
Meanwhile, Imelda Walsh, chair of North Tipperary IFA said that talk of a Level 5 lockdown was worrying.
"Farming is seen as an essential service which fortunately allows us to continue producing food to feed Irish and international families. We are very mindful as farmers of the need to ensure that the service providers that come to our farms can do their work with the security of knowing that the correct protocols are in place, which we managed very well during the last lockdown.
"It is important that we all adhere to government guidelines and be a little more mindful going about doing our business to ensure that we keep the businesses in our villages and towns open," she said.
In relation to Brexit, Mr McCormack was more optimistic.
"On the farming and agri-food side that is the mainstay of Tipp’s economy, I’m actually a little more hopeful that we may be looking at a Brexit deal. The reports that the British side want negotiating teams to enter what they call ‘the tunnel’ that is the intense period leading up to an agreement are encouraging. I’ve always said that ICMSA wants - and counties like Tipperary need - an agreement that is as close to the present arrangements as possible. So anything that moves towards that is good," he said.
Ms Walsh said that the threat of a no deal Brexit loomed closer and, as an island nation Irish farming families were among the most exposed.
"Our food exports would drop by 30%, which would have disastrous consequences.The scale of our exports to the UK, particularly beef and dairy, would have serious repercussions for every parish in Tipperary.The survival of our core indigenous industry is at stake here," she said.
Ms Walsh said that even in the case of a free trade deal the outlook was bleak with an 11% drop in exports.
"If there is a border between the Republic and Northern Ireland there will be a massive hit. However if it’s in the Irish Sea the negative impact won’t be as great," said Ms Walsh.
As farmers, we expect our Government and the EU to work tirelessly to ensure an outcome that won’t allow farmers income and business to be decimated, she said.