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Food sector to sustain growth in 2011 -- IBEC

THE food and beverage sector is set to continue to grow this year, but the upcoming Climate Change Bill may damage competitiveness, according to IBEC.

A survey from the IBEC group Food and Drink Industry Ireland (FDII) found that 34pc of food industry respondents to the agency's recent business sentiment survey believed the business environment they operated in was good or very good -- some 15pc above the wider business community.

Three-quarters of food-sector respondents said they were at least as confident about their own businesses than three months ago -- compared with only 62pc of respondents overall.

Only 6pc of food companies expect the next three months to be "poor" -- far below the 25pc of businesses overall expressing the same sentiment.

Despite the positive results, FDII director Paul Kelly warned that upcoming legislation, especially the Climate Change Bill, could damage Irish competitiveness.

"To ensure the food sector continues to grow, the focus must remain on competitiveness. The food industry is deeply concerned at a number of recently published pieces of legislation that will push up costs and ultimately cost jobs," he said.

"The Climate Change Bill should be deferred to allow for a proper debate on the issue.

"The targets set out in the legislation are significantly above those of other EU countries and will require extreme measures to meet, such as huge cuts in the size of our beef and dairy herds.

"As it stands, the proposed bill would cost households and businesses at least €400m extra per annum by 2020, over and above the estimated €400m required to meet EU greenhouse gas reduction targets. It will cost jobs, raise energy prices and stifle export-led growth in the sector."

Mr Kelly also criticised the recently published Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011, which he said contained proposals that would damage food industry competitiveness.

Irish Independent