Food firms look to Europe

By Pádraig Hoare

Next week, a record number of Irish firms will showcase at the world’s biggest food fair, in Paris, to diversify into new markets following Brexit.

Bord Bia said 35 companies will attend the SIAL International Food Fair, the biggest business-to-business trade event in the world this year.

Chief executive of Bord Bia, Tara McCarthy, said since the Brexit vote, in 2016, the body specifically worked with UK-exposed companies to measure risks to growth, as well as exploring new markets.

“We now understand better the risks around Brexit and the measures we need to take to support companies get the right products into the right markets to ensure sustainable growth,” Ms McCarthy said.

Bord Bia said that while Brexit impacts on all food and drink sectors, exporters in prepared consumer foods are particularly exposed,

A third of the 35 Irish firms at SIAL are involved in prepared foods, with eight of them participating for the first time.

Prepared food exports were valued at €2.8bn in 2017, an increase of 12% on the previous year. The UK accounted for €1.8bn, or 62% of its value, Bord Bia said.

Minister of State for Food, Andrew Doyle, said there was “clearly the strategy to shift away from reliance on one market, opening up to opportunities in Europe and further afield, to reduce their risk to trading volatilities” for Irish firms in Paris.

“While the UK market continues to perform well, with an increase in exports again this year, it is prudent to increase our footprint internationally, and SIAL gives us an opportunity to do that, with 160,000 trade visitors from 110 countries,” he said.

Hassatt’s Bakery, in Cork, said that it was growing business in the UK, US, Canada and France, but was looking to SIAL to secure new listings in the key European target markets of France, Germany, Switzerland, and Poland.

Some 38% of Irish meat and 31% of dairy exports go to Europe, according to Bord Bia.

For the first seven months of this year, exports of prepared food to Europe reached €1.32bn, including the tripling of exports to Denmark in the past two years, to €24.5m.

Emerging eastern European countries, including Hungary and Romania, were also lucrative, Bord Bia said, growing 400% and 347%, respectively, over the past two years.

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