Tuesday, 22 October 2019 10:55

Fingers crossed as Brexit looms

Written by  Peter Burke
Ben O’Brien. Ben O’Brien.

“Let's just say things aren’t getting any clearer.”

That’s the view of Beef + Lamb NZ’s European regional director Ben O’Brien on where things are with Brexit.

He told Rural News he’s confident the NZ meat industry is ready for whatever might happen as the deadline looms for the UK to leave the EU. Brexit is scheduled to occur on October 31 – Halloween.

“I think we had a dress rehearsal on March 29 – the day Britain was originally scheduled to the leave – and my fingers are crossed in my office in Brussels that things will work smoothly without too much disruption,” O’Brien said.

“We are not expecting too much disruption at the ports and also the companies will manage their ends to some extent. Some may take the view that they will avoid the first few weeks of Brexit to give them more certainty of getting product through customs.” 

O’Brien believes Brexit is likely to happen at the end of October.

He says lamb consumption and the sale of lamb to the EU and UK have declined, with NZ filling just over two thirds of its quota there.

“We are seeing declining consumption overall and, of course, we are seeing a lot less product going into the EU, largely due to the opportunities for NZ in China. That is a good situation for us and for the European sheep meat producers. It means we are sending our higher quality cuts and our lesser cuts are going to other markets.” 

He says if Brexit had occurred ten years ago, when NZ was much more reliant on the EU market, the situation would have been different. 

In the past, Irish sheep farmers have protested about NZ lamb exports to Europe. But O’Brien points out that the Irish sheep industry is small – average flock size is about 100 breeding ewes – and most sheep farmers have jobs off farm. 

He says NZ exports complement Irish and UK sheep farmers’ exports and ensure lamb is on supermarket shelves all the time.

Once Brexit is settled, the focus for NZ will shift to concluding an FTA with the EU. 

Negotiations are already well advanced, but the change in the shape of the EU parliament with strong green and conservative elements and a smaller centrist grouping may change that. 

O’Brien says the new EU parliament may be a bit more protectionist.

“But I think there is strong support at the political level – on both sides – and that a FTA between NZ and the EU is not just about trade, it’s about a whole lot of other things as well.”

» Connect with Rural News

More like this

Deal done on ETS

Dealing with agricultural emissions is very much on the radar of farmers, says Beef + Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor.

Milk price hike a surprise and relief

Fonterra's farmgate milk price forecast upgrade was a welcome surprise although indicators were heading that way, says Federated Farmers dairy chair Chris Lewis.

Beefing up meat sector

Beef up, sheep down, is the simple message from Beef + Lamb NZ’s latest data on the state of the national sheep flock and beef herd.

Sheep and beef doing its bit

No increase in stock numbers in the sheep and beef sector is anticipated as the industry moves towards carbon neutrality, says Beef + Lamb NZ head of nutrition Fiona Windle.

Dairy beef bulls tick all the boxes

The latest results from the Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Genetics dairy beef progeny test are signalling good prospects for dairy farmers.

» The RNG Weather Report


Soil moisture: no more looking over the fence

Farm manager Bryan Mitchell describes as brilliant the SCADAfarm systems that allow him to remotely monitor and manage the irrigation of his 300ha of leased grazing land near Kirwee.


Separation gives constant result

Effluent separation offers a number of unique advantages, and opportunities that other systems don’t offer, says farm equipment manufacturer Rakaia Engineering Ltd (REL) Group.

Cultivating the right way

Cultivation of paddocks is common on farms at this time of year. It’s also a time when local storms may occur, adding substantial risk to an important farming practice.

» Connect with Rural News

» Connect with Rural News

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Job hunting?

A mate of the Hound reckons outgoing special agricultural trade envoy Mike Petersen, who is due to finish his current…

Hot air?

With the Government wanting to implement huge costs on the livestock farming sector by making New Zealand the only country…

» Connect with Rural News