The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has warned that Irish food and drinks sector will not surrender its position on supermarket shelves in the UK.

Speaking in Paris on Monday, the Minister said that UK’s decision to leave the European Union will be a challenge for the sector’s Food Wise 2025 strategic plan.

“That’s a very significant challenge in terms of those ambitions, our exposure to the UK market in value terms is €5.1 billion and in percentage terms it’s 43% of our food and drinks industry,” he said.

To ensure that this crucial market is protected, the Minister said he plans to visit a number of UK-based multiples tomorrow (Tuesday) to make them aware of Ireland’s stance.

“We are not for a moment surrendering any of the supermarket shelf space we have worked diligently over many years to build up.

“I will be meeting with some of the multiples in the UK in an effort to consolidate the market share that we have and to send a signal that though the UK may be about to leave the EU, we are not about to walk away from markets that have been hard won,” he said.

Speaking at the world’s largest food fair, Salon International d’Alimentation (SIAL), the Cork man also said that the Brexit decision puts into sharper focus the efforts needed to ensure that there are new market opportunities available to Irish producers.

However, the Minister did say that the opening of the Iranian market for Irish sheepmeat came as welcome news, even though it did take much negotiating.

Iran has a population of 80m people, he said, but accessing the market gives Ireland a corridor to over 250m people in the Middle East.

He added that accessing the Chinese market could also be beneficial for Irish beef producers as it takes cuts of beef not normally sold into our main export markets.