7,500 Irish jobs 'at risk' amid fears Brexit could hit food exports
More than 7,000 jobs are at risk in Ireland following the UK's Brexit vote, business leaders warned.
Britain is one of the Republic's biggest trading partner and a fall in the value of the pound makes Irish products more expensive for British consumers.
An Ibec report warned if sterling was to weaken further towards the £0.90 mark, this would translate to losses of more than 700 million euros in food exports and about 7,500 Irish jobs.
The organisation's food and drink industry director Paul Kelly said: "Urgent action is now required to protect our vital exports to the UK market, limit damage in the domestic market from imports, and address competitive pressures caused by the fall in sterling.
"A failure to act will compound the pressure on exporters, undermine Ireland's long-term position in the market and threaten jobs."
Ibec called for a review of the agri-food strategy, tax reform in the budget to improve competitiveness and an employment subsidy scheme.
Mr Kelly added: "In addition to an immediate response to the currency shock, we need to work towards a positive outcome in formal exit negotiations.
"The main objective must be to maintain full unfettered access to the UK market for Irish exporters. UK access to the EU single market is much more preferable to UK bilateral agreements with third countries."
He warned a structural shift in exchange rate relationship combined with Brexit-related trade risks meant UK buyers were planning significant supply chain restructuring following the June 23 British vote to leave the EU.
"The real threat is a loss of confidence in Ireland as a competitive supply base resulting in loss of markets and exports."
Mr Kelly said t he Government's short-term objective must be to support companies as they repositioned their businesses during this period of uncertainty.
"The focus must be on maintaining markets in the UK, developing other markets as well as ensuring that, in the domestic market, companies remain competitive against imports and the threat of cross-border shopping."
The report recommended a review of the national agri-food strategy FoodWise 2025; budget tax reform to improve Ireland's competitive position; and the re-introduction of the Employment Subsidy Scheme and the Enterprise Stabilisation measures that were last applied in 2009-11.
The document, entitled Brexit: The challenge for the food and drink sector, also included a survey of food and drink companies: 64% said exchange rate movements would have a negative impact, 42% expected negative impact on the value of export sales, 42% identified exchange rate volatility as the biggest problem and 51.5% have hedging or pricing arrangements in place.
An economic analysis highlighted the intense pressures on margins and pricing strategies. A review of the historical exchange rate and agri-food export relationship showed that a 1% drop in the value of sterling results in a 0.7% drop in Irish exports to the UK.