Northern Ireland pushes export opportunities for meat and poultry

The Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) has launched a report into the impact that Brexit will have on the local food and drink sector. 

The aim of the survey is to draw the attention of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the UK government to particular issues facing the sector, and to ensure that they are considered during policies and trade negotiations.

All of the survey participants identified minimising border disruption with Ireland and avoiding punitive tariffs that would make trade with the EU tough as key areas of concerns.

Aside from the meat and poultry industry, companies from animal feeds and the bakery sectors also took part in the research project, in association with Deloitte, as well as fruit and vegetables and drinks.

NIFDA warns about ‘great uncertainty’

The local agri-food sector was recognised as being particularly significant due to the important role it plays in the rural community, its economic position as the largest manufacturing sector employer in Northern Ireland and its dependence on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The industry is closely connected with that of the Republic of Ireland, with 36% of Northern Irish lamb being processed south of the border.

“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,” said Declan Billington, chair of NIFDA.

“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 proactive 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, among others,” he concluded. “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.”

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