Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Charlie McConalogue TD has said he is appalled by the lack of contingency planning that has been undertaken by Minister Michael Creed to safeguard farmers and the Irish agri-food sector from a hard Brexit.
Deputy McConalogue said, “Brexit is a clear and present danger to Ireland’s largest indigenous industry, which supports some 270,000 jobs in rural communities right across Ireland. Several agri-food businesses have already been hit hard due to the currency fluctuations and the UK is yet to formally trigger Article 50.
“I have been growing increasingly alarmed at the lack of a coherent plan put forward by the Government to deal with the challenges posed by Brexit. The information which I have received through parliamentary question replies shows that Minister Creed has much work to do to ensure his Department is ready to deal with the fallout associated with Brexit.
“For example, I am shocked that the state agency tasked with promoting Irish food at home and abroad, Bord Bia, is only hiring 4 additional staff in 2017. This is appalling when you consider the enormous challenges facing the Irish agri-food sector in the months ahead. It shows that the Government simply isn’t putting in place the resources needed to deal with Brexit.
“Bord Bia does outstanding work overseas to increase the market share for high quality Irish food and drink products. How will it be able to meaningfully expand its operations on a large scale with only 4 extra staff in place this year? Bord Bia has a challenging task to broaden Ireland’s exports beyond the United Kingdom. The stage agency needs to be adequately resourced to achieve this.
“Secondly, the Minister has confirmed to me that his Department has assigned just 3 staff members to a dedicated unit to deal with Brexit related issues. This is underwhelming when you consider the newly established UK Department for Exiting the European Union already employs 335 officials and is growing all the time. Ireland will be competing with the UK for export business contracts for our agri-food sector.
“Finally, there was much fanfare when Minister Creed established a Brexit Consultative Committee to facilitate an exchange of views between his department and sector stakeholders as the Brexit process unfolds. This committee has only met twice since having its first meeting last July.
“Minister Creed needs to seriously reevaluate his approach to dealing with Brexit. This is a unique challenge for the agri-food sector and his thinking needs to reflect this,” concluded Deputy McConalogue.