Local TD Bobby Aylward has said the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is 'unthinkable' for Ireland's beef industry.
Deputy Aylward was commenting following reports that the UK has plans to open their market to South American beef in the event of a no deal Brexit.
"The UK is Ireland’s largest export destination for agri-food products with exports valued at €5.2 billion in 2017," he said.
"Our beef industry in particular is hugely reliant on the UK market and 48% of all our beef exports went to the UK in 2017. If in the event of a no deal Brexit, the UK opens its doors to South American beef this would be nothing short of a catastrophe for our beef industry and would have a devastating effect on farmers the length and breadth of this country.
"Beef farmers are no strangers to crisis but a no-deal Brexit will decimate the sector. There is 36 days until the UK exits the EU and no-deal is becoming increasingly likely. If this comes to pass and Irish beef is forced to compete in the UK market against cheaper imports from other countries thousands of jobs will be lost.
The Fianna Fail TD said Irish beef farmers have worked very hard to secure their place on the shelves in the UK and in British restaurants. Irish beef has a hard earned and well-deserved reputation as quality, high standard food.
"Every effort must be made to safeguard this industry and the hundreds of thousands of people employed in it, both directly and indirectly. The Government therefore must ensure that sufficient contingency plans, including a financial aid package, are in place to insulate our beef and agri-food industry from the fall out of Brexit,” he said.