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Irish food and drinks sector posts promising export figures to UK in new report

Despite Brexit and COVID-19 identified amongst the top risks for the Irish food and drinks sector, 1 in 3 Irish businesses surveyed recorded an uplift in retail sales during COVID-19 and almost half of all Irish companies exporting to the UK anticipate an increase in sales in the next 12 months.

15 June 2021, at 7:00am

A new report launched by Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board) shows 1 in 3 Irish businesses surveyed recorded an uplift in retail sales during COVID-19, despite the unprecedented headwinds of the pandemic and Brexit, presenting some of the biggest threats to the food and drink sector.

Businesses also expressed positive optimism for the future as the UK continues to be one of the most important markets for sales and growth across almost all Irish food and drink categories.

Bord Bia’s Readiness Radar is an expert risk diagnostic tool, designed to analyse the key challenges and opportunities facing the Irish food, drink and horticulture sector. The results are based on a survey of 110 Irish businesses from across food, drink and horticulture, representing an estimated 60% of all Irish food and drink exports.

The report highlights that as a result of four years of preparation, Irish companies operating in the UK enter a more encouraging era in the wake of Brexit. While 90% of the Irish businesses exporting to Britain have reported an increase in the costs of doing so post-Brexit, companies prepared well ahead of the curve to mitigate risk and potential impact to their businesses with 82% developing robust plans to meet the various market challenges and responding to Brexit regulatory and legislative issues. Specifically, 7 in 10 companies revealed that they are well prepared for processing GB customs documentation. 78% of Irish businesses expressed a positive outlook for the next 12 months, with 46% anticipating an increase in sales thanks to strong trading relationships with GB customers.

Longer-term, eight in ten Irish businesses are optimistic about trading prospects for the next three years to come. In the four years since the 2016 Brexit Referendum, Bord Bia has continued to provide regular preparedness programs and capability development services for all Irish food and drink companies operating in the UK.

Bord Bia CEO, Tara McCarthy, said: “We are now six months into trading in a post-Brexit era which has brought about significant change and unprecedented challenges, yet the fact that almost half of all Irish companies exporting to Britain anticipate an increase in sales to the UK in the next 12 months is testament to the resilience of the Irish food and drink industry and the strong relationships we have with customers in Great Britain.”

As with all businesses, COVID-19 posed the second biggest risk to Irish food and drink businesses operating in the UK. With almost half of Irish food and drink businesses trading in the food service sector in the UK, closure of this channel as a result of COVID-19 caused significant disruption.

Almost half of companies expect COVID-19 to remain a significant risk to their business going forward, but following a year of operating in the pandemic, 93% claim to be much more prepared for the on-going risks associated with COVID-19.

In terms of a post Brexit and COVID-19 vista, Irish food and drink producers have invested in four key areas to help grow and maintain sales in the UK, including: sustainability, product innovation, new technology and insights.

Bord Bia GB Manager, Donal Denvir, said: “It has been a really difficult year for food and drink businesses operating in the UK’s retail and foodservice channels. The determination, resilience and agility of the Irish food and drink companies we have supported over the last year is truly astounding. So much progress has been made during an unstable year and our businesses are feeling well prepared for the market challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.”

Click here to read the full report.