Belfast Telegraph

Republic's food sector appeals for help

By Ciaran Moran

The increased likelihood of a hard and disruptive Brexit and a fracture of the single market demands exceptions from EU state aid rules for the Irish agri-food and drink sector, it's been claimed.

Food and Drink Industry Ireland (FDII) - part of the Republic's business group Ibec - has called on the Irish government and the European Commission to put in place a comprehensive package to protect viable businesses and jobs during a potentially fraught Brexit process.

FDII director Paul Kelly warned the Irish agri-food and drink sector is "uniquely exposed" and said there is a compelling case for exceptional state aid support to minimise the economic fallout and job losses which could follow from a hard Brexit.

"Already the currency squeeze is putting intense strain on exporters," he said.

"This pressure is likely to intensify as the challenges and economic costs of a hard Brexit crystallise.

"The hardening of EU and UK negotiating positions mean we must plan for a very difficult Brexit process and the high possibility of a divisive outcome."

The report proposes that state aid support should be targeted across three distinct areas, including measures to help Irish food and drink companies to invest.

Aids could include technology, plant renewal and expansion, refinancing, market development and innovation to regain competitiveness following single market fracture.

FDII is also calling for help for food companies to diversify through trade-related measures, including export financing and export credit guarantees, to support the continued development of international export markets.

Mr Kelly said the Republic's food and drink industry was deeply integrated into the wider economy and its broad geographic footprint meant that the regions were particularly exposed to any shock to the sector.

"In the short-term, the objective must be to put in place mitigating measures to help companies manage their businesses through ongoing currency shifts and during exit negotiations," he said.

"The medium-term focus must be on maintaining markets in the UK, developing other markets and ensuring that domestically, companies remain competitive against imports and the threat of cross-border shopping."

Belfast Telegraph

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