Saturday 25 March 2017

Shoppers making major food savings after Brexit vote

But weak sterling will threaten jobs in food industry

Consumers are benefiting from massive savings as retailers take advantage of the Brexit vote by buying up huge stocks of non-perishable food, sweets and soft drinks from wholesalers in Northern Ireland. Stock Image
Consumers are benefiting from massive savings as retailers take advantage of the Brexit vote by buying up huge stocks of non-perishable food, sweets and soft drinks from wholesalers in Northern Ireland. Stock Image
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Consumers are benefiting from massive savings as retailers take advantage of the Brexit vote by buying up huge stocks of non-perishable food, sweets and soft drinks from wholesalers in Northern Ireland.

However, poor sterling prices will threaten jobs in the food and wholesale industry here, according to employers and industry representatives.

Shop owners in border counties and parts of Dublin have bought large quantities of food items from the North.

While making savings themselves, value is also being passed on to customers who can make significant savings when buying sweets, soft drinks and grocery items.

This is making life more difficult for businesses here, with wholesalers and food producers warning that job losses are inevitable as the fallout from Britain's exit vote continues to have worrying repercussions for Irish companies. Many exporters are already struggling to meet rising costs associated with the euro's renewed strength against the pound.

Paddy Callaghan, managing director of Nature's Best, a company producing salads for many of the UK's top supermarkets, said he is concerned about the Brexit vote.

"It makes exporting more challenging and difficult," he said. "There has been a 15pc differential in the exchange rate since Brexit happened. In our game the margins are wafer-thin, so the swing can be the difference between life and death."

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Mr Callaghan set up the company 30 years ago, cultivating vegetables in his garage in Drogheda. It has since moved to a bigger premises and has continued to grow in recent years, so much so that he was inundated with requests for work after the Brexit vote from non-nationals working in the food industry in the UK.

"Many of them feel less comfortable over there after settling in western Europe and are looking at the possibility of living somewhere similar to the UK," said Mr Callaghan.

"We are getting a surprising amount of people looking to come and work here."

However, the reality is that job losses are more likely to result from the Brexit vote, with export costs now difficult to maintain.

"We have 290 people employed here and produce a wide range of short shelf-life convenience products for supermarkets and they look for the cheapest possible supplier," said Mr Callaghan. "Certainly, some of those jobs would be under threat."

Food and Drink Industry Ireland director Paul Kelly warned it is vital that the Government tries to protect food suppliers in the upcoming Budget.

"The last time we had a major shift in currency was in 2008," said Mr Kelly. "Then we saw two things - one was a very serious and negative impact on our exports and the second was a dramatic increase over the following years in the amount of imported food.

"The UK remains our biggest market and that will remain the case. It is the fifth-largest economy in the world and is right next door."

Ireland's trading relationship with the UK means 41pc of our food and drink exports go to the British market, generating €4.4bn each year.

This accounts for 70pc of Ireland's prepared consumer foods such as salads, 56pc of all meat exports, 60pc of cheese exports and 30pc of all dairy exports.

Sunday Independent

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