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Independent.ie

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Dail Ag Committee calls for re-evaluation of Food Wise 2025 due to Brexit

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine has recommended that a re-evaluation of targets set in Food Wise 2025 be undertaken.

It says Brexit may require fundamental changes in the structure and future of Irish agriculture, as such, targets set in Food Wise 2025 may no longer reflect what is possible, or even, what is best for the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors.

The Committee yesterday launched its report on the Impact of the UK Referendum on Membership of the European Union on the Irish Agrifood and Fisheries Sectors.

Some of the report’s key findings and recommendations include:

  • Noting that Ireland does not seek a position of advantage; rather, what is being sought is the opportunity not to be placed at a unique disadvantage as a result of Brexit. The Committee notes that, while the UK and Ireland are intensely aware of the need for an agreement which recognises the unique situation of Ireland North and South, it is imperative to stress this in all engagement with the EU and with individual members of the EU27.
  • In order to reduce our dependence on the UK market, it is necessary to determine alternative markets. It may be necessary to develop new products in order to enter these markets. It could also be beneficial to determine which markets currently suffer from a lack of competition as these markets may offer Irish producers and exporters an opportunity to produce and sell to consumers who currently face distorted purchasing prices.
  • The Committee believes that Ireland should diversify its economic output. It is essential to have a diverse base to resist future shocks. A focus on the most profitable sectors may prove short-sighted, and leave Ireland exposed in the longer-term.
  • The Committee recognises the importance of agrifood and fisheries to rural economies. As such, every effort must be made to preserve existing employment, or alternatively, to develop new employment opportunities in these communities. The Committee is of the view that funding to support business models which are no longer viable is not an efficient use of state aid and therefore suggests that analysis be undertaken to determine which areas of agrifood are most at risk of employment loss. This would underpin a strategy to diversify production and retain employment in vulnerable rural areas.

Committee Chairman Pat Deering TD, said, “The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine agreed a number of months ago that consideration of Brexit and its implications for the Irish agrifood and fisheries sectors necessitated urgent consideration.

“Our Committee held a number of hearings on Brexit and the threat it poses to Irish Agri-Food and Fisheries and we also received detailed written submissions from stakeholders.

“The UK accounts for approximately 40% of our agrifood exports and Brexit poses particular risks for the mushroom and beef industries.”

“In terms of fisheries, UK waters account for one third of the catch of Irish fishing boats. The issues around fisheries are very complex and the Common Fisheries Policy must be re-examined in order to protect Irish fishing.”

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“The overwhelming message we received from our hearings was that Brexit will inevitably result in a more difficult trading relationship with the UK. Uncertainty has led to the weakening of sterling, which is putting serious pressure on prices and exports.

“We are recommending that while our close proximity to the UK remains valuable, Ireland must diversify; finding new export markets for existing products and developing new products to substitute for loss of market share in the UK.”

“In this report, the Committee has focused on establishing the worst-case scenario for Ireland’s agrifood and fisheries sectors; doing so allows for a comprehensive response to Brexit. It is our hope that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine will consider carefully our recommendations.”

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