There are no Brexit upsides in rural Ireland

"You'll have decimation"

Dairygold has warned of the consequences that a UK withdrawal from the EU Customs Union without mitigating measures will have for rural Ireland.

In that scenario, Irish food exporters to the UK could face WTO tariffs as early as 2019, which would impose double-digit percentage levies on goods passing the border or crossing the Irish Sea.

"Together with other cheese producers in the dairy industry and with Government involvement we need collectively to address Brexit challenges for Ireland’s cheese exports of which 60% of Irish product is sold into the UK," chief executive Jim Woulfe said.

"We must continue to pursue strategies to diversify markets and to continue to add value to our dairy output, to minimise the impact of Brexit," he added.

He warned that no matter how 'hard' or 'soft' Brexit is, it will have a, "profound impact on the Irish dairy and food industry."

The company's chairman James Lynch also commented, "You'll have decimation in rural Ireland with the beef, and the dairy and the mushrooms, you have the drink industry. There is so much of an impact out there, and it's how we're going to deal with it is going to be the challenge," he told The Irish Independent.

"It is rural Ireland that is being impacted. You hear people talk about the positives that may come out of Brexit. That's not going to filter into rural Ireland," he added.

The co-op announced operating profits of €17.5m down 9% on 2015.