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Minister for Agriculture, Food
and the Marine,
Michael Creed,
reflects on developments in 2017
and highlights the work underway
to seek out and identify future
I am pleased to have the opportunity to
contribute to this issue of Irish Farmers'
There is no doubt that the issue that
loomed largest over the agri-food
sector during 2017, and will continue to
do so in 2018, is Brexit. My Department
and I, and indeed the sector as a
whole, have tried to identify and plan
for the anticipated barriers to the
strong, integrated trading relationship
that currently exists between the
UK and Ireland. The upside of this
increased focus is that all concerned
in Ireland, the UK and across the EU
fully recognise and acknowledge the
degree of exposure that Ireland has to
the UK market for exports of agri-
food products. This exposure is far
greater than for any other sector of
our economy nearly 40% of all agri-
food exports went to the UK in 2016,
compared to an average of about 15% of
all merchandise goods exports across
the economy as a whole.
The most immediate impact of Brexit
over the past 18 months has been caused
by the drop in the value of sterling. In
order to help mitigate this, and assist the
sector in reducing costs and improving
competitiveness so that it can also
deal effectively with the more long-
term challenges of Brexit, I introduced
a range of budgetary measures in the
2018 Budget aimed at helping reduce
farm-gate and business costs. These
complement the suite of measures
that I introduced in the 2017 Budget.
The measures cover the introduction
of low-cost loan schemes for farmers
and small to medium enterprises
(SMEs), as well as new agri-taxation
measures and increased funding under
the Rural Development and Seafood
Development Programmes.
I have also provided significant
additional funding for Bord Bia to
support its investment in market
insight and development of market-
prioritisation initiatives, and to
Teagasc for the development of its
new National Food Innovation Hub in
It could be said that the developments
at the December meeting of the
European Council, where `sufficient
progress' was deemed to have
been made in the exit negotiations,
have perhaps altered the dynamic
somewhat, in that they may have made
a hard Brexit less likely. However,
there still remains a degree of
unpredictability about the situation,
especially from a political viewpoint,
and I think it prudent to continue
considering all possibilities as
comprehensively as possible.
I can also assure the agri-food sector
that we will continue to maintain our
key asks as the Brexit negotiations
unfold, namely:
Continued free access to the UK
market, without tariffs and with
minimal additional customs and
administrative procedures;
A minimisation of the risk from
UK trade agreements with third
countries; and
The maintenance of current access
to fishing grounds in the UK zone in
the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and north of
Donegal, and protection of Ireland's
quota share for joint fish stocks.
Of course, Brexit underlines the
importance of pursuing and developing
new markets for Irish agri-food
exports. This is an ongoing and
central component of the strategic
development of the agri-food sector, as
evidenced by its placement right at the
centre of Food Wise 2025.
Food Wise 2025 outlines the huge
potential for growth in agri-food
exports to new and emerging markets,
particularly in Asia, Africa and the Gulf
region. This is where our efforts will
be focused for the foreseeable future,
particularly given the need to diversify
markets and to reduce our reliance on
traditional destinations such as the UK.
I recently announced additional
market-access resources in my
Department in order to further
support our efforts in this regard. I also
announced a seven-point action plan
which will undoubtedly be of direct
assistance to Irish food and drink
exporters this year.
As part of the seven-point action
plan, I requested that Bord Bia carry
out a market-prioritisation exercise,
the object of which is to examine
and recommend the international
markets which provide the greatest
potential for increasing Irish agri-food
exports. This will inform the future
market diversification activity of my
Department, whether in relation to
identifying suitable destinations for
trade missions or overcoming technical
barriers to market access.
Indeed, 2017 has been a busy year for
trade missions, as I led missions to
the Gulf Region, to the US and Mexico
and, most recently, to Japan and South
Korea. In the case of the latter, the
rationale has been to build on recently
completed free trade and economic
partnership agreements which provide
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