DUP MEP Diane Dodds has said that new statistics released by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) highlight the continuing importance of Great Britain as the primary market for local agri-food produce.
Responding to the findings, which set out the performance of Northern Ireland food and drinks sector, Mrs Dodds said: “This positive report demonstrates once again that agri-food is bedrock of the Northern Ireland economy. In 2017 turnover in the food and drinks sector increased by 10.6% to £4.8 billion and related full-time employment rose by 4.9%.
“There can be no doubt that the main driver of this success has been sales to the rest of the United Kingdom. Almost half of all Northern Ireland’s food and drinks sales in 2017 were to Great Britain, valued at over £2.3 billion. Great Britain was the largest market for six out of ten subsectors, including beef and sheepmeat, in which sales were worth £927 million - almost eleven times as much as those destined for the Republic of Ireland.
“For those who seek to use the Brexit negotiations to undermine Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market and separate local businesses from its same regulatory regime, these findings present great difficulties. The DUP has stood firm on ensuring that continuity of access to our primary and most valuable market is defended and protected. These figures demonstrate that our position in rejecting the undemocratic backstop is warranted.”