West Tyrone MLA Declan Mc Aleer has expressed concern that agri-food businesses will struggle to cope with the demands for export health certificates in the event of a no deal Brexit and has welcomed confirmation that the department is preparing a business case for market intervention.
Mr McAleer, who is the Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture was speaking after attending a meeting with the DAERA Permanent Secretary, Chief Vet and senior officials at department headquarters in Ballykelly.
Mr McAleer said: “Currently the department issues around 18,000 export health certificates per year.
“In a no deal, this will increase to at least 0.5 million certificates, placing incredible strain on veterinary services and our ability to export produce.
“At present, there are just over 90 vets working on export certification but demand will dramatically increase in a no deal situation.
“Also, to be eligible for an export health certificate there will be a 40 day, on-farm residency rule which will have a huge impact on farmers who purchase for slaughter and many marts in the north are not approved as export assembly centres.
“During our meeting, we also discussed the impact of WTO tariffs in a no deal scenario. This will place a 30% tariff on dairy, 20% on lamb and coupled with the removal of the subsidy, farming will struggle to survive. This affects all of us, not just the farming community.
“We pressed the officials on their preparations for Brexit and the need for a market intervention for farmers, given the scale of damage facing the industry and our capacity to produce food.
“The department has a command, control and co-ordination hub set up and are focussing on keeping trade flowing in all situations. They are planning for a hard Brexit with a lot of financial turbulence.
“We were glad to note that they are working with Westminster on an intervention to assist farmers and the business case for the intervention is currently being worked on. However, I fear that even if this intervention happens, it would only be a stop gap for the long term devastation to the industry.
“Unfortunately, it is getting clearer every day that a ‘no deal’ Brexit will cripple agriculture and the agri-food industry in the north. Sinn Féin will continue to engage with the sector, lobby the department and do our best nationally, at EU level, in councils and internationally to highlight the plight that a hard Brexit would inflict on our communities.
“Ultimately, we must be given the choice in a referendum to either remain in the EU with the rest of Ireland or stay politically bolted on to the sinking UK ship.
“It’s time for the date to be set for a unity referendum.”