The UK's decision to leave the EU has undoubtedly given rise to enormous challenges for the Irish agri-food sector. We have seen that the most immediate impact has arisen from changes to Euro-Sterling exchange rates, and that the horticulture sector has been particularly affected.
A number of actions are being taken to try to mitigate these immediate impacts.
Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland have being providing practical guidance to SMEs. Bord Bia recently announced a number of measures, covering areas such as managing volatility impacts, providing consumer and market insight, deepening customer engagement and extending market reach, which are aimed at helping companies to maintain their competitiveness. Similar support is being provided by Enterprise Ireland.
In addition, I announced a number of measures in Budget 2017 that will financially underpin my Department's Brexit mitigation efforts through strategic investment in key areas of the Department, its agencies and in the agri-food sector. In particular, funding for capital investments in the commercial Horticulture sector will be increased to €5 million in 2017. The Horticulture sector will also have access to the €150m low interest cash flow support loan fund, providing access to highly flexible loans for up to six years, for amounts up to €150,000, at an interest rate of 2.95%.
I will continue to keep the situation under review, including through discussions with the recently-established Consultative Committee on Brexit, which includes representatives from the horticulture sector. This Committee met for the second time last week, and will continue to facilitate an ongoing exchange of dialogue with my Department as the situation in relation to Brexit unfolds.