75% of Irish food and drink firms fear Covid-19 recession

75% of Irish food and drink businesses fear a recession prompted by Covid-19, while 71% of companies are actively seeking to expand into new markets in response to Brexit, according to a new report from Bord Bia.

The report – titled Bord Bia’s Risk Readiness Radar – was published today, Thursday, July 2.

A report launch was held in the RDS virtual events studio and hosted by Padraig Brennan, meat, food and beverage director, Bord Bia, and Shane Hamill, Bord Bia’s Brexit and strategic projects lead. Brendan Gleeson, the secretary general of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, also spoke at the launch.

A total of 128 Irish food, drink and horticulture companies, representing 51% of total exports, took part in the survey, which was conducted over a four-week period in March and April this year.

This, the Irish food boards claims, represents the “most accurate and robust risk assessment of the Irish food and drink industry ever conducted”.

Padraig Brennan during a panel discussion with: Tara McCarthy; John Jordan; Catherine Neilson; and Niall Browne. Image source: Fennell Photography

Industry panelists included: Tara McCarthy, CEO, Bord Bia; John Jordan, CEO, Ornua; Catherine Neilson, director of strategy, Kerry Group; and Niall Browne, CEO, Dawn Meats, with the panel discussing the report findings in depth.

Commenting at the event, Tara McCarthy said: “Given our island location on the edge of Europe, Irish manufacturers with a growth focus are export dependent.

The estimated value of food, drink and horticulture exports from Ireland for 2019 was €13 billion, capping a decade of extraordinary growth where the value of Irish food and drink exports increased by 67%.

“The latest available CSO [Central Statistics Office] figures for April showed food and drink exports holding up to last years’ value at a total level; however, with significant variance between categories and between destinations.

“The current scenario posed by Brexit and Covid-19 reinforce the impetus behind overcoming any obstacles presented by export market diversification,” McCarthy said.

Launched by Bord Bia today, the report “captures the high-level risks facing the industry across six key areas: Covid-19; Brexit; challenges to market diversification; sustainability pressures; consumer insights and innovation; and talent management”.

The in-depth industry analysis captures the level of risk exposures facing the industry, “and in turn converts insights into interventions via Bord Bia’s supports and programmes to help industry mitigate defined risks”, the Irish food board says.