Brexit has affected Irish food Exporters as Pounds Dive Pushes prices higher

If Australia thinks there will be opportunities in Britain after the Brexit, spare a thought for the Republic of Ireland.

Ireland is the food bowl of the UK, supplying a quarter of all Britain’s beef, much of its vegetables, milk and processed food.

But now trade-exposed Irish farmers and food exporters are seeking help from their government, as Britain begins to leave the European Union.

Britain takes 40 per cent of all the food and drinks produced in Ireland, more than Euro 4.5 billion worth or $6.5 billion.

But four months after Britain’s Leave Europe vote, the pound has plunged to the lowest level in 30 years, reducing the amount Britons can pay.

A Brisbane-based lawyer who worked for more than 20 years in Ireland on Corporate and EU law said Ireland has been caught napping.

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“Ireland didn’t have a contingency plan for the referendum,” McCullough Robertson partner John Kettle said.

“What’s happened is there was no plan B.

“For that part of the economy not based on financial services and tax structuring deals around Dublin, the UK is an incredibly important market for Irish produce.

“So if there’s a hard Brexit, and tariffs are put up, that’s one impediment for Irish produce going to Britain.

“And the Sterling has collapsed by 20–25 per cent against the Euro since June, so that makes Irish agri-produce much more expensive.

“So it’s difficult to make long-term supply arrangements with UK retailers who are going to squeeze them on price.”

Irish farmers are also threatened by cheaper produce coming out of the United Kingdom.

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“They’re caught in a perfect storm!” Mr Kettle said.

Ireland’s food board —Bord Bia — is offering trade-exposed Irish food companies a grant to cope with the vacuum of political and trade certainty.

Bord Bia’s Padraig Brennan said with the lower Pound, Irish food was becoming expensive in the UK.

“I notice over the last week, the talk of price inflation,” Mr Brennan said.

“If the Sterling remains as low we’ll see upward pressure on food prices over time.”

The British Government is not starting the withdrawal process until March 2017, and it will take until 2019.

Padraig Brennan said there will be a long exit.

“What we’re trying to do now is develop a fund for companies with a turnover of less than Euro 30 million a year.

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“We’re prioritising those companies with a particular level of dependency on the UK market.”

Meanwhile, Australia is hoping for a Free Trade deal with Europe within the next two years, and a bilateral deal with the UK.

Even if Britons have to pay more for Australian food and wine, Irish Australian lawyer John Kettle said exporters were in a good position.

“Australia really needs to run a brand Australia program in the UK to say “we’re going to stand by you in these hard times, and we’re going to put as much product into the UK to show that we want to trade with you,” he said.

“You can’t underestimate the amount of irrational sentiment of purchasing into the future.”