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New figures show staggering scale of Irish agri-food sector's dependence on UK market



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Documents contained in the UK government's sectoral analyses, prepared in advance of the country's departure from the EU and published ahead of Christmas, highlight some important statistics about the close nature of the relationship between the UK and Ireland.

The most staggering is the scale of our agri-food sector's dependence on the UK market.

Just over 43pc of our agri-food products went to the UK in 2015. This has been well flagged, but the figure is considerably out of kilter with other countries.

After Ireland, the state with the greatest dependence on the UK market is the Netherlands, with 10.3pc of its agri-food products exported, followed by Denmark, France and Belgium, all of which are around the 9pc mark.

Northern Ireland is also the most heavily dependent geographic region in the UK on food and drink manufacturing.

The percentage of geographical gross value added (GVA) for food and drink manufacturing is the highest in the North at 5pc, compared with 3pc in Scotland, 2pc in Wales and 1pc in the south east of England.


For agriculture, the share in GVA was 0.6pc for the UK in 2014, increasing to 1pc and 1.4pc for Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

Jobs-wise, the North is more dependent on agriculture than any other part of the UK.

Agriculture represents 5.7pc of overall employment in Northern Ireland, compared with just 1.1pc in England.

The publication of the data comes as UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove told a recent farming conference in the UK that he was aware that the UK has a deficit in agricultural and horticultural produce with the EU27.

Irish Beef

However, he also said that Irish beef farmers, among others, have an ‘acute’ interest in securing continued tariff-free access between the UK and the EU.

He said he was confident of building a new economic partnership with the EU that guarantees tariff-free access for agri-food goods across each other’s borders.

The UK government has been pilloried, though, for the perceived lack of detail in these documents, which broadly paint a statistical picture of the composition of the various sectors.

Instead, it is left largely up to the reader's imagination to guess the potential impact, or otherwise, of Brexit on each area.

That was expected after Brexit Secretary David Davis' incredible admission before the House of Commons Brexit committee last month that the government hadn't carried out any formal impact assessments on each sector of the economy.

Online Editors