‘Brexit among indicators putting agri-businesses under pressure’ – IFAC

From Brexit to climate change, trade deals and changing consumer behaviour, Irish food and agri-business owners have much to contend with. Outside of dairying, many customers of agri-businesses who trade predominately in Ireland are under pressure.

These were the sentiments expressed by the author of IFAC’s Food and AgriBusiness 2019 report – David Leydon – during its launch in Dublin yesterday, Tuesday, September 10.

The head of food and agri-business at IFAC also highlighted the fact that there was “a range of indicators” pointing to a less positive outlook among leaders in the sector – when compared to this time last year.

There is a 100% increase in businesses concerned about the impacts of Brexit – rising from 21% to 42%.

Leydon continued: “While this remains surprisingly low, it reflects a range of government surveys about the preparedness of this sector for Brexit and is corroborated by the relatively low number of businesses who now have an EORI number.

“Increased costs, the potential of a hard border and loss of sales in the UK are all causing concern, but there is still lingering hope among business leaders that a deal will be done at the last minute.”

‘Optimistic about the future’

The IFAC expert then went on to point to how “it isn’t all negative within the sector either”.

25% of companies are looking to employ more staff while 75% expect to retain the same number.

Leydon added: “Despite an overall decline in confidence 59% of companies are still optimistic about the future.

“In addition, those companies that sought bank finance tended to be more successful than last year.”

Taking social responsibility

Meanwhile, the report also points to ‘social responsibility” within the Irish business sector and how food and agri-businesses are “taking their social responsibility seriously”.

Moreover, it seems that at least 74% of businesses in Ireland are “taking action” on climate change – for example.

The main actions being taken centre on waste management and sustainable packaging.

Leydon continued: “The move to sustainable packaging is being led by consumer demand for more environmentally friendly options and a reduction in the use of plastic.

“Sustainable packaging along with veganism and food provenance are the major trends impacting on food producers.

“It’s also noteworthy that private label is growing in importance as a route to market, and food producers need to be aware of this.”