Government needs plan to safeguard €5bn UK food trade

Farming lobby groups call on Government to set out clear strategy to cope with fallout

 

Farming lobby groups have called on the Government to set out a clear strategy on how it plans to deal with the fallout from Brexit and to safeguard the Republic’s €5 billion food trade with the UK.

Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Joe Healy, while expressing disappointment at the outcome of the UK referendum, emphasised the need for the Government to immediately take decisive steps to allay the concerns in farming and the agri-food sector about the implications of the vote.

“The outcome of the UK vote has major implications for Irish agriculture and the agri-food sector,” he said.

“The Government must give a clear signal that the issues of major importance to this sector, our trading relationship with the UK and Northern Ireland and the EU budget, will be central to the EU-UK negotiations,” Mr Healy said.

The Department of Agriculture estimates that about half of the State’s €10 billion food and drink exports went to the UK last year.

The introduction of a different tariff regime or a major collapse in British buying power could have adverse implications for this trade.

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) said the Government needed a “clear Brexit plan” to safeguard the State’s €5 billion food exports to the UK.

“In the context of €5 billion in food exports to the UK - €1.1 billion is beef and €1 billion is dairy produce - we need clear and agreed plans,” ICMSA president John Comer said.

“It is important to emphasise that it will be at least two years before any of these issues become a reality, including any possible implications for farmer payments,” he said.

Mr Comer called on the the Minister for Agriculture to establish a co-ordinating group of department officials and industry stakeholders so that clear plans and strategies are identified.

Icos, the umbrella group for dairy co-ops, said central banks needed to intervene to stabilise volatile currency markets.

Icos president Martin Keane said: “We are now facing two challenges; we must deal with the immediate uncertainty in currency and other markets, and we must then apply ourselves to securing the most positive post-Brexit arrangements possible.”

“We need central banks to bring some stability to currency markets, and we all need to work with the Government and other authorities during the transition period, which will last a number of years.”

“Panic or over reaction is not an appropriate response to this new reality; there is a job of work to be done, which will require the combined focus and effort of Government and industry,” he added.