The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports is an ongoing and central component of the strategic development of the agri-food sector, as evidenced by its placement right at the centre of Food Wise 2025, the industry’s strategy for development over the coming years. Indeed, this is all the more relevant after the UK’s decision to leave the EU, which presents significant new challenges for the agri-food sector in particular.
Looking beyond Europe, Food Wise 2025 outlines the huge potential for growth in agri-food exports to new and emerging markets, particularly in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Gulf region. This is where our efforts will be focused for the foreseeable future, particularly given the need to diversify our markets and to reduce our reliance on traditional destinations such as the UK.
Trade Missions play an important role in this regard, and I have been very active on this front in recent years as we strive to gain, and then develop, a presence in as many global markets as possible. I have led very successful missions to the Gulf Region, the US, Mexico, Japan and Korea in 2017, and to the US, Canada, China, Indonesia and Malaysia 2018. These missions included participants from across the agri-food sector and featured extensive trade contacts as well as high-level political discussions. These and the other missions that my Department is planning for the first half of 2019 will serve to enhance and improve our existing levels of market access in these destinations.
At my request, Bord Bia recently completed a market prioritisation exercise that identified opportunities in new and more mature markets, and will provide valuable market intelligence both for industry operators and policy makers.
Since the UK referendum I have increased Bord Bia’s funding by a total of €19.5 million, including a further €5 million that has been allocated in Budget 2019. That funding has been put to very good use on initiatives such as its Brexit Barometer, which has been helping companies to assess and improve their preparedness for Brexit, and its Market Prioritisation reports, which are informing its own and my Department’s work in relation to market diversification. Bord Bia has also been very active in engaging with companies in relation to issues such as supply chain management, customs processes, customer relationships and market diversification.
In addition, Bord Bia, along with officials from my Department, has been participating in the recent series of public outreach events being co-ordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the banner Getting Ireland Brexit Ready. This information campaign is designed to help businesses and companies understand some of the challenges posed by Brexit and the supports available to them.
I can assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to seek out and identify new markets, and I am ready to respond as appropriate to any opportunities that may arise.