Brexit to be top priority for incoming Bord Bia chief

Brexit challenges facing food and drink exporters will be top of the agenda for Tara McCarthy when she takes up her new post as Bord Bia chief executive in January.

Brexit to be top priority for incoming Bord Bia chief

Bord Bia has confirmed Ms McCarthy will leave her current role as CEO of Bord Iascaigh Mhara, and will replace Aidan Cotter, when he retires as Bord Bia CEO in January.

In the months after the UK public’s June vote to leave the EU, both Bord Bia and BIM have been hosting exhaustive briefings and workshops with food and fisheries exporters.

BIM hosted briefings at which the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation and the British National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations discussed the main options open to UK and Irish fisheries, namely shared fish quotas, negotiations on shared stocks and a possible “super-regional advisory council” in which coastal states including Ireland, the UK and Norway would agree upon new fishing rules for shared waters.

Britain has traditionally been a partner with Ireland for quota swaps, trading around 4,000 tonnes of fish annually. Given the complex fishing boundary issues BIM is currently teasing out with the UK, Tara McCarthy seems a natural choice to lead Bord Bia through its most immediate challenges.

Michael Carey, Bord Bia chairman, said: “Tara has clearly demonstrated her leadership capabilities during a 20-year career in the agri-food industry. The competition for the role was very intense and throughout the robust process, the panel was hugely impressed by the high calibre of candidates.

“Tara is exceptionally well qualified to take the organisation to the next level, with a deep understanding of the work of Bord Bia. She has proven to be a strong leader and fully appreciates the need to build close relationships with the organisation’s key stakeholders.

"I am confident that Tara will meet any challenges facing the sector, and pursue new opportunities, with vision, determination and imagination.”

Prior to taking up her BIM role in September 2015, Ms McCarthy worked with Bord Bia for 20 years, notably as consumer foods senior manager (2001–11), and food and beverage director (2011–15). She holds a BComm from NUIG and an MBS from UCD’s Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

A native of Clonakilty, Co Cork, she has been a regular contributor to the Government-led Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025 growth plans for Irish food and drink exports. She has also played lead roles in initiatives in the Pathways for Growth programme. She is also an affiliate of Harvard Business School and IMD Business School, Switzerland.

Ms McCarthy said: “It is an honour to be asked to lead Bord Bia during what is a very exciting time for the Irish food and drink industry.

"Our total exports target of €19bn in FoodWise 2025, is ambitious, yet achievable, and I am looking forward to working with all stakeholders, including farmers, food manufacturers and producers in order to reach that goal. I want to pay tribute to my predecessor, Aidan Cotter, and I hope to build upon his outstanding work over the coming years.”

Mr Cotter became Bord Bia CEO in 2004. His salary for this year was around €149,000. During his tenure, Bord Bia has worked with processors and farmers to introduce quality assurance schemes for beef and dairy.

While Ireland is a small player in global food and drinks markets, Mr Cotter played a lead role in launching Origin Green, which highlights Irish agri-food’s commitment to sustainably produced food.

Mr Cotter has also led Bord Bia’s bid to help Irish exporters diversify into new markets.

Bord Bia continues to open new global bases to promote Irish produce, most recently a Warsaw office to lead supports for exporters to Eastern Europe, while its new Singapore office will service eight emerging markets in Southeast Asia.

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