With one week to go to a crucial vote on the Brexit withdrawal ageement in the UK's House of Commons, the business lobby group Ibec has warned that the sterling exchange rate could fall between 10% and 25% if the deal is rejected, plumetting to an "unprecedetented" €1=£1.10.
"Recent forecasts by the Bank of England paint a bleak picture for Irish exporters in the event of a no-deal Brexit," Ibec economists wrote in the organisation's latest quarterly economic outlook this Monday. "At these levels, large numbers of Irish firms would not have sufficient margins to supply the UK market without complete price pass-through to British consumers." This would make Irish agri-food products much more expensive for British buyers.
By contrast, maintaining close economic ties under the proposed withdrawal agreement is forecast to push the value of sterling down by 2% to 5% compared to 2018, with this year's average exchange rate remaining at the current level of €1=£0.90. This is the limit over which most agri-food exporters surveyed by Bord Bia last year said they would experience serious difficulties.
The early part of 2019 is likely to be a period where margins will be squeezed for
many Irish exporters
"As it stands the early part of 2019 is likely to be a period where margins will be squeezed for many Irish exporters," Ibec economists warned.
Aside from exchange rate, the authors also highlighted the uncertainty surrounding the UK economy itself, which is the largest market for Irish agri-food exports. "It is very difficult to measure the impact that Brexit will have on the UK economy as a country has never left such a large trading block before. Therefore, there is no precedence to estimate the magnitude of the shock or the speed of adjustment," they wrote.
In Ireland, Ibec noted recent contingency plans published by the Government and the European Commission for a hard Brexit, but said they should be expanded with much-needed information on how this would be managed on the ground. "We urge them to work collectively to bring forward more meaningful measures to support business," the group said.
This week, Agri Aware launched its new 'Many Hats, One CAP' TV and cinema advert.
Produced by Traction Marketing, the advert is part of a wider campaign which aims to promote and showcase how the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) affects everyday life in Ireland, whether that is subsidies paid to a farmer directly or the countless indirect knock-ons that keep rural Ireland alive.
The launch took place at Movies Dundrum, Dublin, on Thursday evening, where both the full and short versions of the advert where premiered for the first time on screen.
The ad itself follows a day in the life of a number of characters who make up the rural landscape in Ireland.
From clips of rural entrepreneur and chef Edward Hayden cooking up a storm in his Graiguenamanagh cookery school, to farmer Kevin Moran up before dawn in Galway to milk his dairy herd, it gives viewers a glimpse into the role the agri-food industry plays.
Agriculture is a huge economic multiplier, which keeps rural Ireland alive
At the premiere, there was a panel of guest speakers which included Agri Aware chair Alan Jagoe and three of the stars in the ad; Hayden, Moran and Teagasc researcher Dr Dayle Johnston.
Hosted by Marty Morrissey, the panel reiterated the point that agriculture is a huge economic multiplier, which keeps rural Ireland alive, and the CAP is central to that.
Alan Jagoe spoke of the huge work, time and spend going behind the campaign.
“It costs money to put it out there, but consumers and society need to know where their money is going and who they are supporting.
"There needs to be an understanding and respect for the production costs and efforts that go into food production,” he stressed.
2016 FBD young farmer of the year Kevin Moran made the point that CAP itself “is not just one thing – a subsidy for a farmer - it is much more than that; it’s an investment in food security, an investment in rural economies and this investment is invaluable to rural Ireland”.
'Many Hats, One CAP' is a 12-month public information campaign that will go live across TV, radio, cinema, social media and print over the coming weeks.
Castleblayney Livestock Mart, Co Monaghan. \ Thomas Hubert
Farmers left unpaid by the liquidation of EP Nugent Ltd, the company operating Castleblayney Mart, have decided to launch legal action against the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA).
At a meeting on Thursday, attendees heard that one case against the PSRA failed, but won when it went to appeal.
Solicitor Paul McCormack told the Irish Farmers Journal that they have agreed to put “in a claim under the property services regulation Act 2011".
"Section 78 part three allows us to bring a claim. One case went forward to the Property Services Regulation Authority and was refused but went through to the property services appeal board and won.”
He says that the basis for the claim is that EP Nugent Ltd was trading “dishonestly” by not having a license.
“There’s 40 individual cases,” McCormack said, adding that the average claim is approximately €1,000.
“Nugent would like to see the farmers paid. There’s no guarantee it will happen. Claims had to be lodged within 12 months of the people finding out there was a problem. The liquidation was 9 April 2018 so we are up tight against the wire.”
McCormack advised that anyone who wants to make a claim should get in touch with his office at Thomas Street, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, or the IFA.
The discontinuation of chlorothalonil is a hammer blow to Irish tillage farmers, Irish Grain Growers Group chair Bobby Miller has said.
On Friday, the European Commission voted to ban chlorothalonil, a key ingredient in Bravo, which is used by tillage farmers to fight septoria and ramularia.
“The one good thing about Bravo is that it is a cost-efficient product. There will be alternatives available in the future, but will be they be as cost-effective for the farmer and will they be as effective as Bravo,” Miller told the Irish Farmers Journal.
We have to stand back and allow imports of grains from all over the world
He also said that any alternative products will have to be tested in the Irish climate as well.
Miller also hit out at the importation of grain from around the world into Ireland.
“Yet we have to stand back and allow imports of grains from all over the world, with different standards applied, arrive into the country to be fed to livestock.
“We, as tillage farmers, are being made fools of by the EU talking out of both sides of their mouth.
"The Irish grain quality assurance system is a joke when our Irish grain can be mixed with any sort of grain and waste in merchants' and millers' processing plants,” he said.