Ireland’s agri-food sector dodged a bullet last month when the European Union and the United Kingdom agreed a trade deal. A third of our food and drink exports – worth €4.3 billion – currently go to the UK and a no-deal outcome with punitive tariffs would have zapped much of this in an instant.

The relief was short-lived, however. New customs and border procedures are already proving a headache and stakeholders are now fighting over who gets the biggest slice of the EU’s €5.4 billion Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund.

The fund was established to offset the impact of Brexit. Ireland is set to be awarded just over €1 billion in 2021, a quarter of the €4.2 billion allocation for 2021.

Details of the divvy up emerged late on Tuesday night and by early Wednesday, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) was out, laying claim to the proceeds. IFA president Tim Cullinan said farming, as the most exposed sector, will have a substantial call on Brexit funding.

“We will be making a strong case for funding to go directly to farmers who will take the brunt of any fallout from currency fluctuations and trade and logistical issues that will arise once the deal reached before Christmas works its way through the system,” he said.

Exposed

Next up was Food Drink Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the food and drink sector, which said food exporters here were by far the most exposed of any one sector in Europe and, even with the current deal, were facing additional paperwork, customs, disruption and transport delays.

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It wanted the money used to boost the competitiveness of members; improve their export capabilities; and help them diversify into other markets.

Then came the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society, which represents dairy co-ops and livestock marts.

“The UK’s departure from the EU also has brought implications for our all-island dairy economy, as products of mixed milk origin are now unable to access EU market supports and in many cases they also cannot benefit from preferential access provided by EU free trade agreements on international markets,” said president Jerry Long.

“This leaves the industry particularly vulnerable and in need of support as it adjusts to these new complexities,” he said.

With so many outstretched hands, it seems inevitable that there won’t be enough in the pie to keep anyone happy.



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