There is revived optimism among Irish food and drink exporters regarding trade with the UK market, according to a new report released by Bord Bia today (Thursday, June 29).

Trade with the UK market was worth more than €4 billion in 2016 and is a vital relationship for the industry.

According to Bord Bia’s Brexit Barometer, almost 80% of exporters who took part in the survey believe there is still considerable potential for future growth in the UK market.

This is in spite of the fact that 85% of respondents are facing competition from British-based suppliers and 61% do not have a marketing strategy for the UK market.

139 exporters of horticultural products, food and drink completed Bord Bia’s survey over the 28-day research period.

This ‘barometer’, says Bord Bia, is a risk analysis tool created to assist individual companies in assessing their exposure to six key risk areas connected to Brexit: trade; routes to market; customs and tax; supply chain; human resources; and currency.

A team of Bord Bia managers carried out 65% of the meetings face-to-face with respondents, with more than 350 hours’ worth of data compiled overall.

Today, 120 senior representatives of the industry arrived in Bord Bia headquarters in Dublin to hear the report findings announced by CEO, Tara McCarthy.

McCarthy explained: “Brexit will demand a nuanced and concerted response from every level of the food industry. It will require new skills, new approaches and new thinking.

We will need to be innovative, agile, informed and prepared as never before. These are demands that will be made on Bord Bia, as much as the industry we represent.

“Following what we believe to be the most comprehensive industry analysis to date, we are currently engaged in a comprehensive review of our structures and programmes to ensure that we perform to the level required of us – in this changing and challenging environment,” McCarthy added.

“The publication of today’s report is part of Bord Bia’s commitment to develop a data-driven response to Brexit.

We now have the hard facts and evidence that permit us to ruthlessly focus on what our industry needs most.

Concluding, McCarthy said: “Notwithstanding the challenges ahead, I believe Brexit can be a catalyst for real, positive change within the industry and Bord Bia.”

Highlights from the Report

One of the key findings of the report, relating to market routes, includes the realisation among exporters that there is too much dependence on the UK market and that market diversification will be vital in the future.

Additionally, while over 80% of participants believe that there are other viable markets, products such as cheddar and beef will be challenged to find suitable alternatives.

In terms of customs and trade, the biggest concern relates to the implementation of possible tariffs and new custom controls, with a lack of understanding of compliance or associated costs due to limited customs expertise.

Lack of experience in trade outside the EU is another issue, with 31% of firms having little to no experience in this area.

For currency issues, most participants believe suitably well-developed practices are in place for currency risk, but it was noted in the report that more investment is needed by companies in currency risk management strategies.

Regarding supply management, increased lead times – particularly for products with a short shelf-life – is a key concern. Also, risk management is an issue with 68% of participants unsure if their supply chain partners are sufficiently prepared for Brexit.