With just over 18 months until Brexit becomes a reality, concrete actions are needed now to prepare vulnerable sectors for the challenges ahead – and there is no sector more vulnerable than the agri-food industry, according to John Comer.
The President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) was speaking following a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, earlier this week.
Comer said there was mounting concern and frustration that no definite actions have been put in place to counter the threats of Brexit – in spite of numerous meetings on the issue.
The reality, Comer said, was that primary producers at the end of the supply chain will bear the brunt of any negative effect.
The ICMSA, he added, made a number of proposals to the minister regarding budget 2018 to create real supports and protections for primary producers ahead of Brexit.
Elaborating, the president noted that such measures are required immediately to enable farming enterprises to put in place contingency funding to counter the negative impacts of Brexit.
Supports at processing level were also needed so that decisions can be taken to lessen the impact, he added.
On a related matter, the sudden drive by the EU to conclude trade deals with regions including Mercusor was a major concern that was amplified by Brexit, according to the ICMSA.
The organisation noted that Ireland must stand with like-minded EU member states and bring these potentially detrimental trade agreements to a halt.
Mercusor has the potential to cause massive damage to the Irish beef sector, the ICMSA said, and this cannot be allowed to happen.
Comer stated that, during the meeting, the ICMSA also addressed concerns regarding payment delays for the different farm schemes, inspections and the threat of a splash plate ban – as well as the need to develop and support the live export trade, given the positive effect it has had this year on cattle prices.
Comer concluded by saying that there were still ongoing issues with schemes – the latest being the Knowledge Transfer scheme – and there must be a root and branch review of the systems established, to ensure programmes run more efficiently and that payments are made in a timely manner.