With the UK and Ireland heavily reliant on each other for trade in agricultural goods, the president of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) insists UK and Irish farmers would benefit from the UK staying in the EU.
Farmers on both sides of the Irish Sea would suffer if the UK voted to leave the EU on June 23, according to the head of Irish Farmers Association.
IFA president Joe Healy said the association was clear ‘Irish agriculture is stronger with the UK staying in the EU’.
The UK is Ireland’s most important market for agri-exports – 40 per cent of Irish agricultural output is exported to the UK, including over 50 per cent of Irish beef exports and almost 60 per cent of Irish pigmeat exports.
A UK vote to leave the EU could present ‘wide-ranging negative consequences for the Irish agriculture sector, both in the short-term and longer term’, he warned.
Mr Healy said: “Irish farmers are concerned about the increased costs and loss of competitiveness that would arise from increased barriers to trade, as well as the potential displacement of Irish products brought about by the UK entering into separate bilateral trade agreements.”
The IFA also has concerns about the potential consequences for animal health.
“We are the only EU member state with a shared land border with the UK,” Mr Healy said.
Significant all-island cooperation and coordination on animal health issues has been fostered and developed over time. The risks to animal health of the population would increase if, over time, different regulatory regimes were pursued between Ireland and the UK”.
Ireland also remains the main export market for the UK agri-food sector, worth almost €3.5bn in exports annually.
Mr Healy said the reintroduction of trade barriers such as tariffs and quota restrictions could have similarly negative consequences for farmers in the UK as it would undermine their ability to export to Ireland and the EU.
Non-tariff barriers, such as import licences, potential border controls and rules of origin checks would increase the costs of doing business therefore reduce the competitiveness of UK-Irish trade.
The IFA President said the close relationship built up between the Irish agri-food sector here and buyers in Britain had proved very beneficial to both parties.
Mr Healy said: “Consumers in Britain have access to a reliable supply of sustainable food produce that is sourced from their nearest neighbour and the Irish agri-food sector has access to a market with a growing population.
“IFA liaises on an ongoing basis with our counterparts in the NFU to discuss issues of mutual concern.
"This partnership approach remains strong and we will continue to work closely with farmer representatives and food buyers in Britain to maintain the solid bond that exists”.
He added: “The potential implications of the UK leaving the EU cannot be ignored and IFA has encouraged the Irish Government to take a proactive role in doing whatever it can to ensure the strong trade links between both countries are fully maintained.”