McDonald’s is to close all of its restaurants in the UK and Ireland by 7pm on Monday as a result of the coronavirus.
The move will be a massive blow for the Irish beef trade and in particular the burger trade.
The food service trade has been under pressure across the EU with the spread of the coronavirus closing down restaurants and fast food outlets in recent weeks.
However, a surge in retail demand has helped keep a floor in the market, with beef prices in Ireland remaining steady.
McDonald’s is one of the largest exporters of Irish beef by volume, with the company spending €163m on Irish produce for export to McDonald’s restaurants across the UK and Europe.
It purchases about 40,000t of Irish beef annually. One in every five burgers sold in its outlets across Europe is of Irish origin.
According to the company, Northern Ireland farmers benefit from £23m worth of income annually for products such as beef and milk.
The move will have the biggest effect on Dawn Meats, which has produced over one billion beef burgers for the fast food chain since a €300m deal was signed between the two companies in 2012.
Dawn Meat's production site at Carroll’s Cross in Waterford now produces more than 400m beef burgers a year for McDonald's outlets in Ireland, the UK and continental Europe.
McDonald's is also a major customer for Aryzta, which supplies burger buns; Lakeland, which supplies milk sticks; and Kerry Group, which supplies cheese to the fast food chain.
In a statement, McDonald’s said: “We have taken the difficult decision to close all McDonald’s restaurants in the UK and Ireland by 7pm on Monday 23 March at the latest.
“This is not a decision we are taking lightly, but one made with the well-being and safety of our employees in mind, as well as in the best interests of our customers.
“We will work with local community groups to responsibly distribute food and drink from our restaurants in the coming days.”
There are 95 McDonald’s restaurants in operation in the Republic of Ireland and 30 restaurants in Northern Ireland.
It employs almost 6,000 people in the Republic and more than 3,000 in Northern Ireland.
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