In spite of the impending exit of the UK from the EU, Ireland and the UK are inextricably linked from an economic point of view and this is particularly true in the agri-food sector. Such is the thinking behind the strengthening presence of the UK at the Ploughing Championship, according to the British Ambassador to Ireland Robin Barnett.
“Whatever the outcome of Brexit, there will still be a close economic partnership between our two countries,” says Mr Barnett.
“The UK remains a key market for Ireland overall and especially in the agri-sector. Last year we saw 53 new projects from Ireland set up or expand in the UK with the creation of 1,447 new jobs and the safeguarding of 109 jobs. Eight of these projects were in agri-food alone with an investment total of £34m [€37m] and the creation of over 200 new jobs. And the reverse is equally true.”
The ambassador has been a regular visitor at the Ploughing Championships and this year will see an emphasis on technical innovation:
“Since my arrival in Ireland in 2016, I have attended the National Ploughing Championships every year. It works on so many levels; it is a place to showcase talent, entrepreneurship and innovation and to highlight the special contribution which the farming sector and the rural economy makes to Irish life — something that cannot be measured purely in money terms.
“It is a place for doing business and also a place to have fun. I wish I had more time for the latter! But there are so many people to meet and talk with from agri-business, politics, the investment world and elsewhere.
“It is a wonderful place to identify new opportunities for business and collaboration between our two countries.
“What is different this year is that this is the first time that we will have a pavilion showcasing UK agri-tech innovation and the great collaboration that we have with Ireland in this field. I am delighted that we will be more visibly represented at Ireland’s National Agricultural and Country show.”
“We recognise the economic importance of the farming and agricultural sector to the trading relationship between Ireland and the UK.
“We want to celebrate the strong inter-dependencies and share ideas for increasing collaboration between both countries, as well as the close people-to-people ties.
“The UK is Ireland’s largest trading partner for the agri-food sector, with 39% of Irish agri-food and drink exports going to the UK — valued at €4.8bn,” says Mr Barnett. Imports from the UK are valued at €3.7bn.
“For some firms in the agri-food sector, more than 80% of what they produce goes to the UK,” he says.
“Moreover, almost half of all Irish food exports are destined for the UK while some 40% of the food Ireland imports is sourced from Britain.
“But, as I said earlier, there is a lot more to the Ploughing than pure business. As always, I will pack my wellies and head to Carlow with real enthusiasm. There are few more enjoyable places to do a day’s work!”