Food Drink Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the food and drink industry, has today launched a new report highlighting the critical importance of the sector to Ireland and the main strategic challenges and opportunities to be considered by policymakers over the next 10 years. The report (see attached) makes detailed policy recommendations in the areas of skills, competitiveness, market development, innovation, sustainability. It also highlights that Brexit policy responses must address all scenarios from no deal to future relationship.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Director of Food Drink Ireland, Paul Kelly said: “One in eight jobs in the Irish economy are now linked to agri-food and drink. Sustaining growth for the sector is imperative in sustaining the growth of the wider economy.
“The industry’s competitiveness has declined at a time when both opportunities and challenges are increasing. From a competitive standpoint, Irish infrastructure costs such as labour, energy, waste, environment and other business compliance and regulatory costs are significantly out of step against many of the EU competitor economies in whose markets we wish to compete. Costs in general facing the sector have increased by 11% from their trough in 2011 with half of those increases coming in the past two years. Combined with the sharp depreciation of sterling since 2015, there has been a 30% increase in the cost of serving the UK market.
“A hugely important measure to mitigate the risks and challenges faced by the sector is to implement policies to control our cost base whilst providing support for companies to innovate and improve both productivity and sustainability.”
Mr. Kelly outlined the importance of ensuring the effective implementation of the Climate Action Plan in order to support the ambition of the industry. He said: “The food and drink industry is the only major industrial sector with a full domestic supply chain from farm to fork. The sector interacts with a wide range of economic and social interests across Ireland and this is particularly true for the environment. The sustainability credentials of the industry must be recognised and supported, particularly the introduction of carbon abatement measures and reductions in single use plastics and food waste.”
Some of the recommendations outlined in the report include:
- Increase funding for enterprise-led skills development, open up the Employment Permit system to food processing operatives and increase the focus on automation and digitalisation.
- Support an ambitious EU trade agenda that promotes trade both at multilateral and bilateral levels to secure additional market access in strategic growth markets at similar tariff levels to competitors.
- Ensure a strong focus on nationally funded research and development and involvement in transnational networks such as the EU’s Horizon programme.
- An effective implementation of the Climate Action Plan with financing supports for abatement measures as well as sustainable packaging supports.
- Provision of the necessary resources to maintain our world class food safety regime.