I am very conscious of the potentially very serious impact of a No Deal Brexit on the competitiveness of Irish beef exports to the UK, with tariff costs estimated by my Department at €724m, or 72%, based on 2019 beef exports of €1 billion to the UK market.
In addition to the Government’s and my Department’s wider Brexit preparedness strategy, there have been a number of measures developed specifically to assist the beef industry in managing market disturbance over the last number of years.
In particular, the €35 million Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme for Sucklers (BEEP-S) this year, which builds on a €20 million pilot scheme in 2019, provides targeted supports for suckler farmers to improve the economic and environmental performance of their suckler beef herd, while supporting animal welfare measures.
In response to Brexit uncertainty, my Department paid out €78 million in supports to beef finishers and suckler farmers in 2019 under the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM), with €50 million funded by exceptional aid from the EU. This year, the €50 Beef Finisher Payment measure (BFP) will support beef finishing farmers who suffered market disturbance between 1 February and 12 June arising from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is in addition to the core support for the beef sector the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), a €300 million programme for improvement of the genetic merit of the national herd over the current Rural Development Programme.
The work of the Beef Taskforce which was established last year as a platform for strategic engagement across sector stakeholders, as well as to monitor the implementation of the actions under the beef sector agreement, is important in driving the evolution of the sector through this period of change. Constructive and meaningful engagement across this group is essential to developing the sector in a sustainable way which adds value at all stages of the supply chain.
In addtion, my Department's focus on the development and enhancement of market access to third countries has intensified since the initial Brexit vote.