Plan to boost eurozone export to beat effect of Brexit
Enterprise Ireland is targeting a 50pc increase in exports from its client companies to the rest of the eurozone by 2020, as it tries to persuade firms to diversify away from the UK.
Firms backed by the semi-state agency reported record export sales of €21.6bn last year - up 6pc on 2015.
But export growth to the UK slowed considerably due primarily to the Brexit-induced weakening of the pound, with food exports hit in particular.
Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon said that while the UK will remain Enterprise Ireland's key market for the coming years, the agency will work to continue to grow the rest of the world at a faster rate. At the same time UK growth is forecast to be flat.
"While the UK continues to be our number one market, what these results are really saying is, Brexit has actually impacted already," Ms Sinnamon said.
"We know that over the next two years, as negotiations go on, companies need to start that journey. They need to start increasing their focus on markets outside of the UK."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said many companies have not yet put in place the required plans to deal with Brexit.
"It is true to say that many companies have not prepared for the situation that will arise from Brexit, because we don't know the details of what will emerge yet."
But he said businesses cannot wait for the outcome of the talks and the currency vitality is already having an impact.
"That's why Enterprise Ireland are putting in place the initiatives and the supports and the opportunities to work through this so that we can maintain our companies but also give them new opportunities in new markets," he said.
Ms Sinnamon said the agency would meet this target through the extra resources pledged in the budget.
Enterprise Ireland staff in eurozone markets will be increased, but consultants will also be employed on fixed-term contracts to provide specific sector expertise when required.