The agri-food sector is of critical importance to the Irish economy. Its regional spread means it underpins the socio-economic development of rural areas in particular.
The UK's decision to leave the EU has potentially serious implications for the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors. The exposure of the agri-food sector to the UK export market is significantly greater than that of the economy as a whole. 41% of Irish agri-food exports go to the UK and 46% of Irish agri-food imports are from the UK. Beef, prepared consumer foods, forestry and mushrooms sectors are particularly exposed to the UK, as are important components of the dairy sector.
The potential vulnerability of the agri-food sector is matched by that of the seafood sector. The seafood and fishing industries are uniquely exposed, given the sharing of fishing grounds with the UK. All of the important commercial fish stocks which we rely on are shared with the UK and one third of all landings of fish by Irish vessels come from UK waters.
Government has been working at national level, with industry and with sectoral bodies to ensure that businesses right around the country can prepare and manage risks.
A range of analysis and research has been carried out on the implications of Brexit for agri-food trade with the UK. Areas covered include supply chain analysis, transport and logistics, and the impact on fish stocks and fleets from a loss of access to UK waters.
This analysis and stakeholder consultation has informed contingency planning and preparedness activities including the range of advisory and financial supports in place.
Government has introduced dedicated measures in the three most recent Budgets. These are aimed at reducing both on-farm and agri business costs through, principally, a series of low-cost loan schemes. Additional grant supports to Bord Bia and to Teagasc are designed to intensify market and product diversification to reduce our exposure to the UK market.
Budget 2019 measures include the introduction of a new longer-term loan scheme of up to €300 million, the Future Growth Loan Scheme. This will support strategic capital investment by businesses in a post-Brexit environment at competitive rates and for terms of 8-10 years. This scheme, jointly funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, will provide long term, unsecured investment finance for farmers, fishermen and small scale companies in the food and seafood sectors. This builds on loan schemes announced in the two previous Budgets.
In addition, a €78 million Brexit package for farmers, fishermen, and food SMEs was announced in the 2019 Budget. This comprises €44 million of direct aid to farmers through environmental schemes; €27 million in capital funding for the food industry; and €7 million for staff recruitment and ICT requirements to meet the increased volumes of import controls and export certification arising from Brexit.
Please see further information on the full range of Government Brexit Programmes, Funds & Supports .
After leaving the EU and the Single Market, the UK will become a ‘third country’ for trade and customs purposes. This will give rise to the need for a range of sanitary checks for live animals and animal products, as well as phytosanitary checks for plants and plant products including wood packaging, e.g. wood pallets. This means that if you import goods from, export goods to, or move goods through the UK post-Brexit, new rules will apply.
Government is ensuring sufficient infrastructure, staffing and IT systems capacity at our ports and airports so that the changeover to any new arrangements is as efficient as possible. The preparations that your business undertakes will be a key part of this, ranging from submitting pre-declarations to ensuring accuracy of all relevant documentation.
If you trade with the UK in plants, animals or products of plant or animal origin (with additional extra requirements for fish and seafood products), there are steps that you can take now to ensure that any potential disruptions to your business are reduced. For more information, see Trading with the UK . The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has also issued a number of Trader Notices Trader Notices for businesses to help them to prepare for Brexit.
On markets, we continue to work with the industry to increase the sector’s footprint in international markets and, through budgetary supports, with the State agencies involved in market and product diversification. In 2019, this enhanced focus on market access and trade includes Ministerial led trade missions to China, Japan, Korea, Algeria and Egypt. It has also included the appointment of agricultural attachés in Berlin, Tokyo, Seoul and Mexico City.
Additional funding provided to Bord Bia has been used to deliver targeted advice to individual companies, and to conduct a market prioritisation exercise that is informing the Government’s approach to market diversification activities. Product diversification has also been supported through additional funding of €8.8 million to Teagasc to develop its national food innovation hub and funding to support investment in the prepared consumer foods sector. Bord Iascaigh Mhara is working with seafood companies on competitiveness, market diversification and training.
For more information, see Government Brexit Programmes, Funds & Supports .
Government has engaged with other Member States and the EU Commission regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors, and has stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a range of measures to help mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and processors. These measures could include traditional market supports and exceptional aid under the CAP's Single Common Market Organisation regulation, as well as increased flexibility under State Aid regulations.
The Commission has confirmed their readiness to support Ireland in dealing with the particular challenges facing Irish farmers and the agri-food sector, given our unique exposure to the UK market.
We are also working closely with the other Member States most concerned with the potential impacts for fishing - France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden - as well as the EU Commission on mitigation measures to support our fishing industry if we face exclusion from the UK zone. The Commission has brought forward legislative proposals dealing with the possible use of temporary cessation measures, quota swapping with the UK and potential reciprocal access.
There is a clear agreed strategy in place at EU level that future fisheries arrangements with the UK can only be agreed within the context of the overall economic relationship. The Government will continue to explore all measures, including state aid options, with the Commission to support the agri-food sector.
For further information, visit the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Sign up to the Brexit Update Newsletter to receive regular information on Brexit by email.
Click here to return to the Brexit and Business page.