The Dealer has often wondered why a fly-on-the-wall documentary series has not been made on Westminster.
Given the current goings-on it would surely make compulsive viewing and it could be called “Carry On Commons”.
More seriously, however, this latest bout of political instability in London highlights the continuing threat posed to Irish food exports by Brexit.
The departure of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid from the British government could hasten the political demise of Boris Johnson, but The Dealer is not convinced that such a development will necessarily offer a positive outcome for Ireland.
Given the influence that the old eurosceptics now exert over the fractured Conservative Party, it is likely that Boris’s successor will have to present himself or herself as further right than Genghis Khan.
Moreover, like Johnson, any new leader will have to adopt a hardline position on Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol in order to retain the support of the Tory Brexiteers.
This is not good news for Irish farmers generally; and for the country’s beef producers, in particular.
Six years on from the UK’s decision to leave the EU, Ireland’s dependence on the British market remains a serious concern for the agri-food sector.
The proportion of Ireland’s overall food and drink exports that go to the UK has dropped from 37% in 2016 to 33% last year, but this trade is still worth €4.4bn. However, it is instructive to examine how the various sectors have reacted to this reliance on the British market since 2016.
The UK accounted for just 18% of total dairy exports in 2021 or €925m.
Even so, reducing the dairy industry’s overall exposure to the British market by diversifying away from cheddar cheese has been the sector’s investment mantra for the last six years.
Glanbia’s new plants at Belview and Portlaoise will produce continental cheeses and mozzarella
More than €1bn has been invested in green-field and brown-field sites in this process.
Glanbia’s new plants at Belview and Portlaoise will produce continental cheeses and mozzarella.
Similarly, a new mozzarella plant was developed by Carbery in Ballineen, while Jarlsberg cheese is produced by Dairygold at a new factory in Mogeely.
What has the meat industry done since 2016 to reduce its dependence on the UK market, which accounted for 42% of Irish beef exports in 2021 and was worth €880m?
Very little, The Dealer would contend, apart from warning that intervention may be needed to take a proportion of the 215,000t of Irish beef sold in Britain each year.
In fact, the evidence of the last three weeks would suggest that the meat factories’ likely response to greater competition or restricted access to the British market will simply be to cut prices. What’s new you might ask?