Despite Ireland being the biggest source of the UK’s food imports in relation to beef and dairy, agri-food trade across the Irish Sea is not one-way traffic, British Irish Chamber of Commerce seminar heard this morning.
It was highlighted that Ireland imports in the region of €4bn per annum of agri-food products from the UK.
It was in this context that Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed who provided the keynote address said that a “no-deal is the worst possible deal for the agri-food sector both in Ireland and in the UK”.
“It would almost certainly result in the imposition of tariffs on food exports in both directions in addition to non tariff barriers such as customs inspection formalities.
“This would be a damaging combination of additional with would damage food business in both jurisdictions,” he said.
The Minister also outlined that Ireland’s contingency planning is well advanced and said his Department is working with customs other authorities to ensure they are prepared to fulfil there legal obligations in any scenario.
Minister Creed outlined the contingency measures the Government are taking to enhance the competitiveness of the agri-food sector in Ireland, and strongly reiterated the Government’s determination to secure the best outcome possible from the Brexit negotiations.
At the event the British Irish Chamber of Commerce called for enhanced measures to Brexit-proof Ireland’s agri-food sector in Budget 2019.
The fifth in its series, the #Agenda2018 seminar was an opportunity for business leaders, policy makers and representative organisations in the agri-food sector to discuss the impact of Brexit on the industry.
Panellists from leading exporters and the large agri-food ecosystem also outlined how they can forge a shared future for both sectors across the Irish Sea.
The Minister’s remarks were followed by a presentation by Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia and a speech by the CEO of Greencore Patrick Coveney who stressed the importance of protecting trade links with Ireland’s most important market for agri-food products.
Patrick Coveney said: “The growth and development of the food sectors on both sides of the Irish Sea has been strongly intertwined over many generations. Today’s integrated supply chain is a direct result of our shared history.
“With large Irish food businesses operating in the UK and numerous UK retailers in Ireland, it is our mutual interest to ensure cooperation continues into the future – irrespective of the outcome of Brexit negotiations.”
“With uncertainty now surrounding those links, it is the British Irish Chamber’s position that the Government must urgently enhance the competitiveness of Ireland’s agri-food offering. The introduction of a carbon tax on the sector in Budget 2019 would only further undermine the capacity of Irish agri-food companies to prepare for Brexit and to diversify their trading links.
Steps should instead be taken to provide state supports to all businesses exposed to the UK market and to increase funding to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). Through these measures we can ensure the agri-food sector is robust enough to withstand the impact of Brexit.”