A new survey by the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) has revealed the key priorities for the food and drink sector in light of Brexit.
NIFDA this week launched the report based on the findings of a major survey into the impact of Brexit on the local food and drink sector. Its objective is to focus the Northern Ireland Assembly and the UK government on the particular issues facing the sector to ensure they are factored into future policies and trade negotiations.
The key priorities for all respondents were minimising border disruption with Ireland, and avoiding punitive tariffs that would make trade with the EU impossible.
The report was produced and interpreted in association with Deloitte and gathered the views of companies operating within a range of sectors including animal feed, bakery, meat and poultry, fruit and vegetables and drinks.
The report says that the local agri-food sector is particularly significant because of its importance to the rural community, its unique economic position as the largest manufacturing sector employer in Northern Ireland and its dependence on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The sector is also noted as being closely interconnected with the Republic of Ireland (RoI), for example, 25% of the Northern Ireland milk pool goes to RoI for processing, and 36% of Northern Irish lamb is processed south of the border.
Declan Billington, Chair of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, said: “The Northern Ireland food and drink industry is a critical part of the local economy and rural communities here, and we are committed to doing all we can to ensure that its growth potential is not hindered by a lack of government understanding and engagement with the sector.
“We are currently facing a period of great uncertainty following the Brexit referendum vote, and more recently the result of the US election, which is likely to impact on inward investment and future trade agreements with the US. Faced with such uncertainty, NIFDA is taking this pro-active approach to engaging with government through mobilising our membership and commissioning this report. It is clear that a concrete plan for a post-EU market does not currently exist - what we are aiming to do is to help shape that plan by raising the concerns of our members, highlighting crucial areas for consideration, and outlining recommendations for government.
“The survey and resulting report highlights a number of areas of great concern to our members, including future disruption of the Irish border, continuation of free trade within the EU, access to EU labour, the increased cost of importing ingredients, and future trade tariffs, amongst others.
“NIFDA has outlined clear recommendations in the report relating to these areas, and we will be actively lobbying the NI Executive and the UK government on these issues in the months ahead,” he concluded.
A pdf of the report is available at www.nifda.co.uk