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Covid-19 will make it hard to analyse the true impact of Brexit

The coronavirus outbreak will make it hard to analyse the true economic impact of Brexit on farming, says Eamon Cassells, a beef farmer from County Meath in Ireland.

Ah Brexit! Remember that? That was fun wasn’t it?

 

I miss those care free days. A few short months ago we thought that Brexit was the biggest issue on the economic horizon but ’Events, dear boy, events’ have diverted our attention.

 

However things have not changed that much in many ways. There seems to be the same economic use of the truth along with massaging of figures. I notice the bizzare reporting of official death figures in the UK that for some strange unknown reason omit those that die in nursing homes from the disease which, considering the age demographics involved seems off, especially when that is not the stance taken by other countries including my own.

 

Figures

 

If we look at the Irish figures, nursing homes account for half of Covid-19 deaths. Considering we are your closest neighbours both culturally and historically as well as geographically it’s fair to conclude that UK figures should be roughly twice as high.

 

When we compare the deaths (24,000 vs 400) and take account of our population sizes (66million vs 5 million) that still leaves a death rate almost 5 times higher than Ireland’s.

 

This leaves some serious questions to be answered and goes back to this distrust of experts that sprung up in the preceding 3 years.

 

Boris Johnson paid the price for the foolish ‘herd immunity’ strategy at the beginning of the crisis.

 

Thankfully it wasn’t the ultimate price and it’s good to see him on the road to recovery but now he’s better he and his Government cannot be immune from fair criticism of their policies especially when they have cost the lives of so many. Hopefully this his opened his eyes and the eyes of others.

 

Economic impact

 

Bringing this back to Brexit, the current situation is going to really muddy the waters and make it very difficult to analyse the true economic impact of Brexit, but it has given us a snapshot of farm life after no deal.

 

We are seeing the difficulties in the horticulture sector with the lack of seasonal immigrant labour. It’s funny how after years of ‘Foreigners are stealing our jobs!’ Brits don’t want to fill those roles when they become available.

 

Also, jobs that had previously been referred to and ‘unskilled’ are now deemed ‘essential’. It’s amazing how quickly perceptions can change.

 

Losses

 

Back on the home farm calving has finished with more losses than I would like but a line has been drawn under it attention turns towards fieldwork. Cattle coming ready for slaughter in the next few months face an uncertain market.

 

Eighteen months of low prices brought on by Brexit uncertainty has put the Irish Beef industry into a difficult position to start with but now with quotes back to €3.40 is utterly devastating for the Irish suckler herd and reserves were slim to start with.

 

The market for large carcasses is gone with the food services sector on lockdown. You couldn’t give away a heavy bull right now. Expect Irish Suckler cow numbers to fall significantly in the next year.

 

Finally, my beard which is now due its post calving trim is gone wild and not a barber to be found. Maybe there will be a side gig open for sheep shearers next month.

 

Eamon can be found tweeting at @Eamon4prez


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