Brexit: Irish food and drink industry calls for urgent action

Ibec group says Ireland’s largest indigenous sector faces major challenges in years ahead

Drop of €560 million in UK exports

Drop of €560 million in UK exports

 

One of the main umbrella bodies for the Irish food and drink industry here has called for urgent new policy measures to meet the challenge of Brexit.

“Ireland’s largest indigenous sector faces substantial challenges in the years ahead in a world that has changed radically in 12 months” said Paul Kelly, director Food Drink Industry Ireland (FDII), the Ibec group that represents the sector.

He was speaking at the launch of the first FDII business monitor report on Wednesday, which highlighted the concerns of firms in the sector.

“On the international front, 2016 saw the risks from Brexit beginning to crystallise for Irish food and drink exporters,” he said.

“We witnessed a drop of €560 million in UK exports, the formation of a new and uncertain global trade environment, and challenges to the integrity of the EU single market,” he said.

“At home in the domestic grocery market, declining consumer sentiment has given way to a decrease in sales relative to volume growth and this is putting further pressure on business costs,” Mr Kelly said.

He called on the Government to urgently implement a range of policy measures to ensure that the Irish agri-food sector remains innovative and competitive, including the reintroduction of the employment subsidy scheme and enterprise stabilisation measures which were applied during the crash.

He also called for €25 million to fund a market diversification and product innovation strategy.

The group also wants a finance package that includes sustainable financing via funding from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland.

“With one in eight jobs in Ireland linked to the agri-food sector, it is essential that the Government act now to ensure the protection of these jobs and the future competitiveness of the industry. Failure to do so will result in the damage going far beyond the food and drinks industry in Ireland,” Mr Kelly said.