Brexit fallout: Government plans for agriculture under threat

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed today chaired a special meeting of the Food Wise High Level Implementation Committee to discuss Brexit and its implications for the agri-food sector.

It comes after the UK’s decision to leave the EU last week, which has serious ramifications for the agri-food sector. A report today from risk management company Aon stated that exchange rate fluctuations would be the most serious impact on Irish agri-food businesses.

The Aon report states that some 41% of all Irish food exports are exported to the UK.

The value of Sterling was rocked again today, as market sentiment continues to be negative towards the currency.

Sterling remains at a 31-year low against the dollar with most commentators citing the lack of clarity or insights into how the European Union and the United Kingdom will move forward.

Today’s meeting, called by the Minister, was attended by the CEOs and senior officials from Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia, Teagasc and Bord Iascaigh Mhara, as well as senior officials from the Departments of Agriculture Food and the Marine, Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Public Expenditure and Reform.

Minister Creed outlined the need for a coordinated approach following the UK vote to leave the European Union.

“We are all familiar with the particular dependence of the agri-food sector on the UK market.

“The most immediate concern for our agri-food exporters is exchange rate volatility and it is important that we have a coherent and joined-up approach to managing those immediate pressures.”

He warned that it would be some time before Ireland can be clear about the extent and nature of any long-term impact and said it was important to retain perspective and do not exaggerate the potential implications, which at this point are unknown.

It was agreed at this meeting that a contact group be established with representatives from the various agencies and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This group will meet regularly to monitor the situation and will work collaboratively, sharing information, to ensure a coherent response to any issues arising.

This is in addition to the consultative committee of stakeholders announced by the Minister last week. The Minister has also established a dedicated unit within the Department to deal with any issues that arise in the context of negotiations.

Ireland is the 33rd largest exporter in the world and the UK is our single biggest trading partner.

Total Irish merchandise exports in 2014 were valued at €92 billion, of which almost €13.6 billion were exports to the UK, figures from Teagasc show.

Irish agri-food exports to the UK make up approximately one third of the country’s total merchandise exports to the UK. And that’s in the form of beef, dairy products and processed foods.