The Deputy's question relates mainly to import substitution in the aftermath of Brexit. I have a written reply that will go on the record of the House and that will be available to the Deputy. He is right that companies need to look at where they source their goods. I recently met a company that imports oranges for jam-making. It always imported the oranges from the UK. With the support of Enterprise Ireland, it decided to look at new sources. It now sources its oranges from Spain. They are cheaper, better quality and make better jam. Companies should look at their supply chain, where they can source different products and look to Europe where companies are guaranteed there will be no tariffs or disruption when importing from across the EU. I thank Deputy Durkan for raising the issue.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In my role as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation I have met with many businesses throughout the country, in all regions, and across a variety of sectors. I have been impressed with the levels of ambition, talent and creativity that I have seen in our companies. I am committed, through my Department and my work with ministerial colleagues across Government, to helping these businesses to maximise their opportunities, to succeed in both domestic and international markets and fulfil their potential.
While we had great success through the Action Plan for Jobs in reducing unemployment from 16% to 4.4% today, we recognise the need to move our focus beyond numbers of jobs created to quality sustainable jobs and to building resilience in the enterprise base.
Future Jobs Ireland is our plan to meet all these challenges. It includes ambitious targets and actions to drive this transformation of our economy and it was developed based on extensive consultation with the business sector and other stakeholders. In the context of Brexit preparedness, I also continue to chair a number of stakeholder grouping, including the Retail Consultation Forum, which has had a specific focus on Brexit over the last year and my Department's Trade and Investment Stakeholder Group, which meets roughly every six weeks.
Regarding import substitution, I have been consistently urging businesses of all sizes to put their supply chains under the microscope to check for risks and vulnerabilities to the UK. Businesses could very well be exposed through their supply chain upstream, such as those who import ingredients, materials or components from the UK. They may be impacted with tariffs or delays at the port, which could impact on cashflow and that is why we have put in place the Brexit Loan Scheme to help businesses to prepare. Once businesses have assessed their supply chain’s exposure there are a range of supports on offer from Enterprise Ireland, InterTrade Ireland and the 31 local enterprise offices and information on what actions to take.
An important element of this commitment is my Department’s annual Global Sourcing Initiative, helping EI clients to develop relationships with Irish based multinationals, through sales, partnership, R&D collaboration and innovation. This year there were more than 400 meetings with 96 Ireland-based multinational companies and 188 Irish suppliers.
Another key priority for businesses looking to succeed is to focus on diversification. Diversification is not just about markets, it also about diversifying into new products, new sectors and new methods of working. It is, therefore, vital that Irish companies increase their levels of investment in innovation and R&D.