The disastrous consequences of a no-deal Brexit for the dairy industry in Northern Ireland (NI) have been laid bare by the chief executive of Dale Farm Nick Whelan.
Speaking at the Agricultural Science Association (ASA) annual conference in Kilkenny on Friday, Whelan outlined how tariffs on both raw milk and milk products normally exported into the EU would effectively stop this trade.
“Fifty-three percent of the milk produced in NI would, in a no-deal scenario, be subject to an EU tariff.
"These tariffs are prohibitive – they are in the region of 40%.
"In an industry that makes 3% margin, you don’t have to be an economist to work it out,” said Whelan.
Something sensible needs to be done here
He maintained that, at present, there is no ready solution or alternative market outlet for all that milk if there is a no-deal exit.
“That presents us with an environmental or animal welfare challenge in the very short term. Something sensible needs to be done here,” he said.
Dale Farm currently processes over one-third of all milk produced in NI and is the second-largest processor behind Lakeland Dairies, which processes approximately 50% of the total pool of 2.3bn litres.
A significant proportion of that Lakeland pool (currently around 600m litres) is taken to the Republic of Ireland for processing.
Two other companies, Glanbia Milk and Aurivo, also buy milk in NI and process it south of the Irish border.
In addition, the NI dairy industry currently exports around 30% of the output from factories in NI to the EU market.