Post-Brexit tariffs 'could kill off Northern Ireland dairy sector'
Around two-thirds of local dairy businesses could be "killed off" post-Brexit, a committee of MPs has been warned.
Dr Mike Johnston, Northern Ireland director of Dairy UK, said that to keep the business alive, a period of access to EU free trade agreements was vital.
It is estimated that two-thirds of UK dairy exports outside the EU are from Northern Ireland.
Dr Johnston warned that if measures were not put in place, tariffs could double, effectively killing off the business.
He was speaking during an session of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on the future of the land border with the Republic of Ireland.
Dr Johnston, who was joined by other senior members of the region's agri-food industry, told MPs that the dairy industry exported to around 100 countries.
He said: "The total of UK dairy exports outside the EU, about two-thirds, are from Northern Ireland. We have developed long-term relationships over the years and a lot of that is based on the 50-plus free trade agreements the EU has in place.
"We would be looking for a period of continuity for those agreements. If we had to switch overnight to world trade, to World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs, it would just kill that business."
Referring to Thailand and Malaysia as examples of places Northern Ireland exports a lot of dairy to, Dr Johnston said the tariff was around 15%.
"If we had to move to a WTO tariff, that would double and that would kill that business," he explained.