Food Drink Ireland (FDI), the Ibec group that represents the food and drink sector, has called for a sharp focus from Government on policy implementation for the agri-food sector as it faces into extremely challenging domestic and export markets for the remainder of the year.
Launching a new document recently, 'Overcoming Challenges: Policy priorities for the food and drink sector 2017', FDI Director Paul Kelly stated:
“The UK vote to leave the EU will result in a fracture of the single market, leaving Irish agri-food companies facing an extremely challenging climate for domestic and export markets.
“The fall out from Brexit will make it increasingly difficult for Irish agri-food companies to retain their position within the UK food supply chain.
“This is extremely worrying for our sector due to the interconnectivity between Irish and UK supply chains; the UK is our largest trading partner and home to 40% of our exports.
“Increasing market share for Irish food and drink companies must become a priority focus for Government, particularly with 230,000 Irish jobs dependent on the sector.
“The immediate response must be to ensure the sector is fit for purpose to meet the substantial challenges ahead.”
Mr Kelly called for Government to prioritise the following:
· A Brexit response package that ensures efficient and open markets domestically and internationally.
· Improved state aid rules to allow additional supports for stabilisation measures, investment in competitiveness and market diversification.
· A relentless focus on cost competitiveness to support and accelerate growth.
· Maintenance of our world class food safety regime to underpin our production of safe, sustainable, high quality and nutritious food.
· A strong focus on national research, skills development and apprenticeships in the agri-food sector.
“The wider Irish economy is more dependant on the agri-food sector than it is on any other manufacturing industries.
“Our sector accounts for almost half of direct expenditure by the entire manufacturing sector in the Irish economy (€2.1bn on payroll; €7.9bn on Irish materials; €1.8bn on Irish services).
“As a result, it has a high employment multiplier, supporting employment in other parts of the economy in a way that other manufacturing sectors simply cannot.
“Uniquely, this economic activity is dispersed throughout all regions of Ireland, particularly in rural areas. It is therefore at the heart of the social fabric of rural Ireland.
“The ramifications of Brexit or failure to implement policies that support the agri-food sector will be felt across the entire Irish economy.”