Warning over Brexit 'bite' on the prepared foods industry
Almost two-thirds of exports from Ireland's prepared consumer foods (PCF) sector goes to the UK, and any new barriers to trade will damage the country's food industry, a report warns.
Food Drink Ireland (FDI), the Ibec group that represents the food industry, said the full implementation of the December Brexit deal was vital to protect complex all-island supply chains.
It warned that the deal needs to be put into a binding legal contract, and that there can be no "backsliding" on clearly agreed commitments.
A new report - 'Brexit: the Challenge for Prepared Consumer Foods' - found that the post-Brexit trading relationship between the UK and EU will be enormously important for the PCF sector in Ireland, both in terms of exports and the domestic market.
"If the UK insists on leaving a customs union with the EU it will result in a significant disruption to trade," said FDI director of prepared consumer foods Kevin McPartlan.
"While the December deal should protect all-island supply chains, new barriers to east-west trade with Britain would be a major blow to the Irish food industry.
"Prepared consumer food companies are particularly exposed.
"The gross output of the Irish PCF sector is €4.5bn, and €2.5bn of that is exported, 65pc of all PCF exports are to the UK."
The report identifies four key priorities for the sector as negotiations progress to phase two.
These include free and unfettered access to the UK market for Irish business, as well as an agreement that takes account of the special case of the all-island economy.
It also calls for transitional agreements of sufficient length for businesses to plan and prepare for any new free trade agreement.
In addition, it said any arrangements to deal with the Border should ensure strict adherence to EU regulations and EU customs duties for all products, in particular from third countries.
"Prepared consumer food companies are the life-blood of the Irish economy.
"They directly employ over 20,000 people and support the employment of many thousands more," added Mr McPartlan.