Irish food firms ’must find new export markets outside UK’ to survive Brexit

Irish food companies need to quickly move beyond their reliance on the UK if they are to survive a Brexit worst-case scenario, a parliamentary watchdog has found.

Agricultural businesses and the fishing industry are in "a position of extreme exposure to trade losses" over Britain’s decision to pull out of the EU, the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine said.

In its report on the impact of the UK’s in/out referendum on Ireland’s food industry, the committee said 40% of food exports to the UK as well as a third of Ireland’s fishing catch is under threat.

Mushroom and beef businesses are particularly at risk.

Pat Deering, committee chairman, said firms need to look beyond the UK for exports and consider developing new products for new markets as trading with our nearest neighbour could become much more difficult.

"Uncertainty has led to the weakening of sterling, which is putting serious pressure on prices and exports," he added.

"We are recommending that while our close proximity to the UK remains valuable, Ireland must diversify; finding new export markets for existing products and developing new products to substitute for loss of market share in the UK."

The committee, which held a number of hearings before compiling the report, also said any negotiated deal between the UK and the EU should "neither reward nor punish the UK" for its decision in the referendum.

Any divorce deal should be "nuanced", it argues, so as not to embolden eurosceptics in other countries who would use a lenient or overly onerous deal to pursue their own cause.

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