Here in the beef sector in Ireland, we have always let someone else worry about the marketing and selling of our beef, but now that Brexit has been triggered by Article 50, there is still no answer as to what, if any, trade deal can be made between the remaining 27 countries within the EU and the UK.
If in the worst case scenario, that the UK does indeed exit the EU without a trade deal, then automatically, the normal World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms for trade will apply. These do include tariffs on goods exported and imported to counties outside of the EU.
Which means that the tariff will be added to the price of whatever product is imported by that country.
Should Britain no longer wish to buy Irish beef, then Ireland will have to do something with 250,000 tonnes of beef.
A visit from a senior Chinese minister at Easter this year is a sign of much needed boost to the beef sector. China imports 825,000 tonnes of beef each year and this is expected to rise to almost 1.25m tonnes in the next ten years.
If the door is opened to export our beef to China, it could overtake the UK market as the main market for Irish beef almost overnight.
In 2016 Irish beef sold 16,000 tonnes to Hong Kong and this is expected to grow as there is a potential market for up to 375,000 tonnes.
No doubt when the Chinese minister arrives for his visit, he will be bowled over with the high animal welfare standards and the predominately grass fed beef produced here. This, with a second to none tractability system and a finishing system already used to presenting cattle under 30 months for slaughter, which is believed to be a requirement of the Chinese Government for beef imports.
On the domestic market, tightening supplies are now causing beef prices to rise as factories now must work in order to secure supplies to complete contracts and with reports that offers of between 5c and 15c/kg being offered above the quoted base price and deals on transport and clipping being added to secure stock.
Prices for steers and heifers are now above 400c/kg and this has not been seen since June 2016.
All of the above is hope that the beef sector is coping with the trials and tribulations that Brexit and the ability of Ireland to expand into new markets, which is no small part down to the Irish farmer who has always come out first to make his or hers the best first. It is time that is recognised by one and all.
Reports are there is a big demand for all types of cattle especially now that farmers buying for the 7 month ANC rule are now out in force, with the best quality lots being in highest demand, trade for all types with grass cattle and almost finished and factory fit cattle being the briskest trade right across the country.
Young Bulls 405c/kg