Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Countrywide this Saturday, Bord Bia chief executive Tara McCarthy said that on 22 March the food marketing body will be launching a toolkit to help prepare businesses for Brexit.

She said Bord Bia has been taking a data-based approach to preparing Irish food businesses for Brexit.

“This is the only thing you can do in a Brexit scenario where negotiations between Britain and the EU have not even begun,” she said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is due to trigger Article 50, which sets in motion the negotiations for its departure, before the end of March 2017.

“We have gone in and done a deep dive on every single sector in the food industry,” said McCarthy, “because no sector has the same story. For example, horticulture has a 90% exposure to the UK, drinks 30% and meat 50%. We are trying to understand the food industry from a sectoral perspective.”

We’re looking at how strong the businesses are

The toolkit will be adapted for the businesses within each sector and will address the concern of how resilient they will be in the face of Brexit.

“We’re looking at how strong the businesses are,” she continued. “Are they going to be able cope with Brexit? If businesses aren’t ready for a currency swing or a tariff swing or a transport opportunity, or a diversification opportunity we need to plan that now.”

Low income for farmers

When asked whether Bord Bia understands the frustration of farmers on a very low income who always see good news stories from the food marketing body on the opening of new markets or increases in the value of our food exports, McCarthy said: “I can understand their frustration. Bord Bia cannot control the price of food but we can get our products in the best positioned markets as possible. We work tirelessly at that.

“Our job is to communicate what we’re doing on opening of new markets and why we’re doing it.”

To convince consumers to pay more for their food is a long hard journey

The CEO added that Ireland exports 85% of what it produces. “We are an international market player,” she said, citing the farm sustainability programme Origin Green as something that sets Irish food apart from its competitors.

“Having that sustainability programme and the transparency of our quality assurance programme – that gives us the right to say we can stand out among our customers.

“To convince consumers to pay more for their food is a long hard journey – but we do the best we can by highlighting the quality of Irish food, its traceability and added value.”

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