Conference notes Brexit’s effect on market diversification

The effect of Brexit and how it is accelerating the sector’s exploration of priority growth markets was one of the key points discussed at a recent conference in a Dublin university.

A conference at UCD Confucius Institute was held on Thursday, October 4. The theme of the conference was: ‘Cultivating New Opportunities: The Agri-Food and Beverage Perspective on Brexit and China’.

The conference was hosted by Irish law firm Matheson together with UCD Sutherland School of Law.

Delivering a keynote address during the conference at the UCD Confucius Institute, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed said: “Ireland boasts some of the best agri-food products and brands in the world, and we export those products to 180 countries.

“Brexit, of course, presents a unique challenge in that context, but it also reminds us of the need to continually strive to develop new markets and to grow existing ones.

“In recent years, much of our attention in terms of market diversification has been on Asia – where we have seen the value of exports nearly quadruple since 2009 – and particularly in China.”

Contributors to the conference included:
  • Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed;
  • President of UCD, Professor Andrew J Deeks;
  • Partnership chairman, Matheson, Tim Scanlon;
  • UCD Dean of Law, Professor Imelda Maher;
  • Company secretary and Brexit Taskforce leader, Ornua, Anne Randles;
  • Head of sales, Silver Hill Foods, Barry Cullen;
  • Kepak director, Stephen Keating.

Southeast Asia and China were highlighted as key target markets presenting significant opportunities for Ireland.

It was outlined at the conference that the agri-food and beverage sector employs over 250,000 people, both directly and indirectly, and is central to Ireland’s export-led growth strategy.

Ireland is currently the UK’s largest provider of beef and dairy products, while Ireland imports approximately €4 billion of agri-food products a year from the UK.

The conference concluded that Asian markets, particularly China, present significant opportunities for the sector. In 2017 alone, exports to Asia grew 6% to €850 million.