British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered severe restrictions on the UK in the fight against coronavirus.

The fallout will be keenly felt by Irish farmers and agri-food industry.

From Monday night, people in the UK will be required to stay at home, except for a handful of occasions, such as shopping for basic necessities like food, medical need, once-daily exercise and to and from essential work.

Some 335 people in the UK have died after contracting COVID-19.

Gatherings of more than two people who do not live together are to be banned, while all shops not selling essential goods will be closed.

The exact definition of essential goods is not clear yet.

While vets and feed mills are likely to be deemed essential, farm supply and machinery businesses are also key to keeping farms operational.

Shutting down the UK has bigger impact on demand for Irish produce than shutting down Ireland

Irish beef and dairy

The effect of a UK lockdown will be keenly felt by Irish farmers and agribusinesses.

Last year, Bord Bia figures show that the UK took 34% of all Irish food and drink exports, while 48% of Irish beef exports went to the UK.

Ireland exported €4.4bn of food and drink to the UK. Some €990m of that total was beef alone.

Agri-food exports to all other EU member states totalled €4.49bn.

In terms of food demand, shutting down the UK has bigger impact on demand for Irish produce than shutting down Ireland.

Britain eats four times more beef than Ireland, with most of that being sold in the food service sector.

Most Irish dairy companies have production links with the UK, including Ornua and Dairygold, while others such as Dale Farm in Northern Ireland have direct contacts with major UK retailers.

Fast food chain closures

Earlier on Monday, huge buyers of Irish produce here announced they were closing due to coronavirus.

They included McDonald’s, quickly followed by Supermac’s, Subway, KFC and Starbucks. Burger King is expected to follow suit.

Lorcan Allen examines the impact of the closures for Ireland in detail in this article.

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