Food markets beyond UK 'must be developed'
The agri-food sector will have to develop alternative markets and new products to help survive the fallout from Brexit, an Oireachtas Committee has said.
Irish agri-food producers and suppliers face the prospect of diminishing profit margins on sales to the UK, as well as the risk of a loss of market share as the UK sources cheaper products from other countries, the joint committee on agriculture has said in a report.
More than 41pc of Ireland's total food and drink exports go to the UK, estimated at about €4.4bn, while we import around €3bn from Britain, meaning the sector could face considerable upheaval once Brexit occurs given its exposure to our nearest neighbour.
In terms of fisheries, UK waters accounted for one-third of the catch of Irish fishing boats, the report said.
Committee chairman Pat Deering said the overwhelming message received from the committee's hearings was that Brexit would inevitably result in a more difficult trading relationship with the UK.
"Uncertainty has led to the weakening of sterling, which is putting serious pressure on prices and exports," Mr Deering said.
"We are recommending that while our close proximity to the UK remains valuable, Ireland must diversify; finding new export markets for existing products and developing new products to substitute for loss of market share in the UK."
The issue was central to a meeting of members of the British parliament and TDs and senators in Dublin yesterday. The meeting co-ordinator, Senator Frank Feighan of Fine Gael, said there was a growing appreciation of Ireland's concerns arising from Brexit.