Brexit nerves on rise for farmers, food producers

Pressure: Tanaiste Simon Coveney with Ifac members
Pressure: Tanaiste Simon Coveney with Ifac members

Shawn Pogatchnik

LEVELS of anxiety over Brexit have doubled in an agri-food industry beset by "increasing pressure on multiple fronts", according to professional services firm Ifac.

The heightened worries are highlighted in the Food and AgriBusiness 2019 report published yesterday by Ifac, an umbrella group for 19,000 farmers, food producers and other agriculture-focussed businesses nationwide.

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When compared with the same survey results a year ago, the proportion of members who now rate Brexit as a problem for their business has doubled to 42pc. The number of members who maintain an optimistic outlook has declined by 20 points to 59pc.

Ifac commissioned Amárach Research to interview 200 owners, managing directors and CEOs of micro-businesses and SMEs.

"These owners are under increasing pressure on multiple fronts, from Brexit and climate change to trade deals and emerging market forces," said David Leydon, head of food and agribusiness at Ifac.

"It is unsurprising that these findings would reveal a time of turbulence and uncertainty for most across the sector and confirm that these businesses are feeling less optimistic."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney, who attended the Dublin launch and took audience questions, said many small firms that export more than €100,000 annually in food to the UK still had not engaged in Brexit planning.

"The message needs to be direct and blunt now: there's no excuse for not thinking about Brexit," he said.

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"There's no excuse for not reaching out, getting advice, accessing grants.

"There's a lot of support for companies now if they choose to access it," he added.

"This head-in-the-sand stuff and hoping that this will all work out in the end is very naive and very irresponsible."

The survey found that 81pc say their profit margins are unchanged or worse than a year ago, while 48pc report increased sales versus 19pc with lower turnover.

A quarter plan to recruit new workers.

Irish Independent

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