Stormont needs to get real about potential Brexit fallout
Published 09/03/2016 | 02:30
After the turbulence of the first two months in 2016, financial markets are exhibiting a modicum of normality in the past couple of weeks.
That, however, will be tested to the full as the UK's referendum on Brexit gets closer. Those who depend on the agri-food industry for their employment or indeed their investments need to closely monitor how all of that unfolds over the coming months.
At a basic level the most direct impact will come in the short term from how sterling performs against the euro. After a number of years when Sterling was strong, and thereby boosted the competitiveness of Irish produced food, a weak UK currency has been evident since the end of 2015.
This adversely affects Irish food manufacturers in two ways.
First, food produced for export is now more expensive in Britain than it was two months ago. Second, food profits generated in sterling are worth less when converted back to euros.
Both of these are unhelpful for an industry whose single largest market is across the Irish Sea, where €4.4bn worth of product was shipped last year.
For those agri-food companies listed on the Stock Exchange the analysis is more complicated. They have significant operations in parts of the world outside Ireland and Britain. Most of them have very limited exposure to food manufactured in Ireland and exported to Britain. This mitigates the effects on their businesses from negative sentiment towards the Brexit debate.
The section of the Irish agri-food industry that is most vulnerable to Brexit linked problems is that owned by private companies and co-operatives.