As the prospect of a hard Brexit grows, results from a survey of 117 agri-food exporting companies by Bord Bia show that 54% have made some progress and developed plans in the past year, while 20% describe themselves as having made more advanced progress and taken actions and 26% say they have made no progress.
While Bord Bia's chief executive Tara McCarthy told the Irish Farmers Journal it was "great to hear" that three quarters of companies had made at least some progress, the detail of risks addressed by exporters shows larger ones are more advanced.
"For smaller companies, this is a bigger challenge. Larger companies are probably more organised, those over the €100m mark. The smaller companies, specifically those under the €1m mark, don't actually have the resources in many instances to put these scenario plans in place," she said.
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This was apparent in a replies to a number of survey questions on crucial business areas to be affected by Brexit. Asked whether they had modelled the cost of future customs requirements, 40% of companies with a turnover of €100m or more said yes, but this fell sharply to under 20% for those under €1m.
Some 85% of exporters have looked at expanding into new markets outside the UK.
"We're looking at a fairly positive story here," said McCarthy. But again, this applies to 100% of larger companies, with lower rates of market diversification among smaller ones.
McCarthy said it was reassuring to see more companies now addressing the financial aspects of Brexit, such as the need to increase cashflow availability to deal with export VAT when exporting to the UK after it leaves the EU. Exporters have also gotten better at raising Brexit issues in relations with their British customers.
However, "more needs to be done in the area of customs and tariffs, and the nitty gritty of supply chains," she said. In response, Bord Bia aims to boost its training offer on issues such as currency and supply chain management in the coming months.
EU leaders warn of no-deal Brexit
No withdrawal from the backstop agreement