Food Drink Ireland at Ibec wants the Government to invest €600m in the next three years to help agri- food firms navigate Brexit challenges.
The association says Ireland and the EU should co-fund aids to help Irish companies invest in enabling technology, management training, plant renewal and expansion, refinancing, market research and innovation to regain competitiveness following single market fracture.
The €600m is about 5% of the value of annual export sales to the UK by Irish agri-food companies. The funds would help the sector maintain its edge in the face of currency challenges, and to help avoid Irish goods being displaced by cheaper UK imports in their home market.
Association director Paul Kelly, said: “Almost 40% of our food and drink exports (€4.1bn) go to the UK. Our industry has been severely impacted by exchange-rate exposure, with the value of trade to the UK reduced by €570m in 2016.
Budget 2018 must support our efforts to maintain strong markets in the UK, and to ensure food companies in the domestic market stay competitive against imports and the threat of cross-border shopping.
To support the wider food, beverage and hospitality sector, the 9% Vat rate needs to be maintained and alcohol excise reduced 3.5%.”
At Virginia Dairy Show in Cavan, IFA president Joe Healy told farmers that north-south trade links are critical to all farmers on the island. He said farmers are right to be worried about the plan in the UK policy paper to leave the customs union, which equates to a hard Brexit.
Mr Healy said: “Each year, €2.2bn worth of animals and agricultural produce move over and back across the border with Northern Ireland for further finishing or for processing. This trade, he says, must be protected by real solutions and compromise by all parties.”
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