Opinion

It’s time we got a Brexit perspective from the feed compounding sector

The silence from Ireland’s compound animal feed industry, regarding the impact of Brexit on the sector, has been pretty deafening. This is very surprising, given the crucial role played by millers in working with both livestock and tillage farmers.

Admittedly, Irish grain growers have not had their woes to seek in recent times, given the weakened state of the world’s cereal markets.

In fact, had it not been for the lift in straw prices since Christmas, the economics of the grain sector as a whole would be in a very parlous position today.

Most of the grain produced in Ireland is fed on-farm, sold on a farm-to-farm basis or supplied to local millers for inclusion in compound rations. But significant quantities of grain, protein sources and other compound feed ingredients are either imported directly from the UK or indirectly sourced from a third country by way of a British port.

And then there is the issue of cross-border trade within the island of Ireland, where compound feeds, grain and straw are concerned.

How will these matters be affected by a Brexit deal: one becoming increasingly harder with each day that passes. Surely it would be helpful to get a perspective from the Irish Feed and Grain Association (IFGA) on how these factors will impact on Ireland’s millers – and farmers – during the period ahead.

For its part Bord Bia is saying that it has lots of Brexit contingencies in place but no definite plan drawn up on how Ireland’s farming and food sectors can best meet the challenges that lie ahead. These circumstances reflect the obvious fact that the UK has not put its cards on the Brexit table, from a negotiating timetable perspective.

However, none of this prevents Ireland’s feed compounders from confirming what might constitute the best possible Brexit deal for that industry. Is a free trade agreement between the UK and Europe the best deal in town or might something else fit the bill?

Phil Hogan was in Ireland recently. He used the opportunity of his visit to advise the Irish agri-food sector on two important matters.

Firstly, there is the need, as he sees it, for stakeholders to identify six or possibly seven core Brexit priorities and, secondly, the necessity for these groupings to forge close working relationships with their counterparts in the other 26 remaining EU Member States.

I sense this advice is particularly applicable to those businesses making up Ireland’s animal feed sector.