I have introduced a number of supports to assist the agri-food sector in preparing to address the challenges posed by Brexit. These include:
- the €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme for Brexit-impacted SMEs and mid-cap businesses. The funding arrangements ensure that at least 40% of the fund is available to food businesses. Up to 14 June 2019, 585 applications have been approved. The total number of loans progressed to sanction at bank level is 141, with a total value of €30.6m, of which 29, with a value of €8.2m, relate to food businesses;
- a market prioritisation exercise undertaken by Bord Bia to identify priority markets across all food and drinks categories;
- tailored supports and analysis are being provided to food companies through Bord Bia’s Brexit Barometer;
- an intensified series of trade missions to develop and grow new markets;
- the recently launched DBEI/DAFM “Future Growth Loan Scheme” will bring up to €300 million of long-term strategic investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including farmers and the agri-food & seafood sectors. The fund is leveraged by exchequer funding of €62 million, of which 40%, or some €25 million, has been provided by my Department. Businesses have been able to apply for loan eligibility through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) since 17th April 2019.
I also have had ongoing discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. The Commission have already made €50m available to Irish beef farmers as a response to market pressures, and this can be matched by national funding. I expect to be rolling out a support scheme with this funding in the very near future. I have also stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a further range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on the agri-food and fisheries sector. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.
And, of course, our practical preparations for all potential scenarios, including a no-deal Brexit, continue to be progressed and refined through the whole-of-Government coordination structures that have been in place for some time.