Sinn Féin has warned of the potential for Brazilian beef to enter Ireland through Belfast port, calling for vigilance and thorough checks at the port.

MEP Chris MacManus said: “The British government and Brazil have signed a new memorandum of understanding, which is widely speculated to be setting the scene for an influx of cheap Brazilian beef to the British market.

“In order to ensure suppliers like Brazil have access, Britain intends to move to a model where the onus would fall on government to prove the food is unsafe, before it is banned.”

Slipping the net

The Midlands Northwest MEP warned that the potential risks posed by the agreement are two-fold for Ireland.

“Firstly, at least 40% of our beef is still destined for British supermarket shelves. Competing in that market when huge quantities of cheap beef lands will be incredibly difficult for Irish farmers.

“Secondly, due to the north of Ireland’s unique status as a result of the withdrawal agreement, any food which is not compliant with EU standards will not be permitted to enter the six counties.

“Thankfully, we have this legal protection through the protocol, but, nonetheless, on the ground, the system will depend on thorough inspection of all meat entering through Belfast port.”

MacManus said the impact of some product slipping through the net and entering NI and the Republic could potentially result in a depression in domestic beef price.