Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Brexit: 'The biggest speed bump the food industry has faced since BSE'

Economist Jim Power
Economist Jim Power
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

The Food Wise 2025 target of doubling Irish food and drink exports to €19bn over the next decade has been put in the firing line by Brexit.

The stark warning was issued by food sector economist Jim Power who said the ambitious growth projections for the industry were in real jeopardy now that Britain had decided to depart the EU.

Describing Brexit as "the biggest speed bump the food industry has faced since BSE", Power said the disruption and uncertainty the move had provoked would undoubtedly hit exports.

"We have seen a 30pc drop in sterling since the vote to leave the EU; and this is in a market which took 41pc of our food and drink exports last year. This is not good news for Ireland at any level," he said.

Power, who is chairman of Love Irish Food, said the "odds were stacked against a soft Brexit" and he predicted that there would "be barriers on the Border" within two years of Britain triggering Article 50.

"Bord Bia should now get a significant increase in resources because we are going to have to find alternate markets and that needs to be done at a global level," he added.

He also described as "fanciful" suggestions that the common travel area between Britain and Ireland could survive a hard Brexit.

On a more positive note, Power claimed the "amount of trade displacement" as a result of sterling's fall on the money markets would be "limited" since its value had dropped against all currencies.

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Meanwhile, it is understood that sterling's collapse against the euro provoked some sharp exchanges at a meeting convened by the Department of Agriculture to discuss the impact of Brexit on the farm sector.

Representative of all the major stakeholders in the food and drinks industry attended the meeting. However, while food processors said the cost of sterling's fall would have to be borne by exporters, farmer representatives insisted that this burden could not be carried by primary producers.

The Department's move to agree a sector-wide strategy on Brexit are in contrast to the financial services industry, where the head of the Irish Stock Exchange, Deirdre Somers, complained she had not seen any "cohesive or co-ordinated" plan for Ireland in the wake of the Brexit vote.

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