Brexit: Cheese prices may rise 60% in Northern Ireland
Cheese prices in Northern Ireland could soar by almost 60% and milk by nearly 33% after Brexit, an agri-food industry event has been told.
But pig trotters could help bridge the trade deficit, delegates at an Agri-Food Strategy Board event in Greenmount College heard.
According to industry chiefs, the province is in an excellent position to dictate Brexit policy in a way that could benefit farmers here.
But for this to happen, the agri-food industry must go to the Brexit talks in London with one voice.
Declan Billington, chairman of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, told the conference: "Our agri-food industry turns over £4.6bn annually and we trade £708m with the Republic of Ireland.
"Another £440m is sent to the rest of the European Union and £140m to the rest of the world. This means a whopping 28% of our turnover could be subject to trading tariffs once Brexit is in force.
"If we have tariffs imposed on our produce, this would potentially create massive food inflation which could see cheese prices rise by 58% and milk process rise by 30%. Consumers would not be impressed with that at all."
Mr Billington said the UK market exports £18bn and imports £39bn - a deficit of £21bn.
One way to redress that imbalance would be to export certain parts of animals currently classed as waste, he said.
"One example of this is pigs' trotters, for which there is a huge market in China," said Mr Billington. "The Germans and the Dutch already export pigs trotters to China, which is proving to be a lucrative deal as it means a higher percentage of the animal is saleable. Yet the Government says it cannot authorise such exports.
"In Northern Ireland this means we are losing a lot of trade because of that one product, but there are many others just as valuable."