Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue has criticised Minister Michael Creed for the limited resources which have been allocated to access new markets for Irish agri food products in response to the Brexit situation.

New information supplied to Fianna Fáil reveals that the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine has “a dedicated market access unit comprising five people”. This is a woefully inadequate allocation in the face of one of the biggest economic challenges confronting the agri-sector in decades.

Deputy McConalogue commented, “Irish farmers and the Irish agri-food industry is the most exposed sector should the UK leave the single market and customs union. A hard border and any potential return to customs controls would be catastrophic given that 40% of total Irish agri food exports go to the British market. If we are to protect our industry, we urgently need to source new markets outside the UK to trade with.

“I find it deeply worrying that the Minister thinks that a team of five people is sufficient to pitch Ireland to new meat export markets. The fact that there is no dedicated market access staff for dairy is also concerning and speaks for itself.

“Ireland has only 5 agriculture attachés stationed in Irish embassies outside the EU. It’s about time the Minister and his Department woke up to the scale of the threat coming down the road – he must review the current staffing levels to ensure that we have an adequate diplomatic presence on the ground to open new markets so that our largest indigenous industry is protected.

“Regrettably, a clear pattern is emerging with regard to insufficient staff resourcing in anticipation of Brexit within the Department – with just 5 staff members assigned to a dedicated Brexit unit. Contrast this with the newly established UK Department for Exiting the European Union, which employs over 335 officials.

“All Government supports and policy levers need to be activated to safeguard farmers and Irish agri food enterprises from a hard Brexit. No amount of Government spin can detract from the fact that the contingency planning and staff resources are nowhere where they need to be and I will be continuing to push this issue with the Minister and his Cabinet colleagues”.