The government recognises that Brexit will have negative impacts on the Irish economy and, as a result, I have introduced a number of supports for farmers and the agri-food sector to assist in addressing 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 15th November 2019, 802 loans have been approved of which 212 to the value of approx. €46.6m have been sanctioned and 37 of these, to the value of €9.5m, relate to food businesses.
- the DBEI/DAFM “Future Growth Loan Scheme” will make up to €300 million of long-term strategic investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including farmers and the agri-food & seafood sectors. Businesses have been able to apply for loan eligibility through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) since 17th April 2019. As of 15th November 2019, 1,906 loans are approved of which 683 are farmers, and 227 are food companies. Of these, 592 loans to the value of €120m have been sanctioned, and of these 592 loans, 283 are farmers with a total sanction amount of €32.7m, and 56 are food companies for a value of €20m.
- 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 has taken place.
In Budget 2020, the Government announced that it will provide a ‘no-deal’ contingency fund to support our most vulnerable sectors, with up to €650 million available overall, to be activated in tranches as the full impacts of Brexit emerge. €110 million will be made available for the agri-food sector in the first tranche, to be supplemented by any exceptional aid provided from the EU.
The provision of immediate supports for our beef sector will be a first priority, as will support for our fishing fleet. We also want to support food companies to re-orient towards new products and markets, and to support other sectors to improve their competitiveness.
While supports cannot fully address the negative effects of a no-deal for the agri-food and fisheries sectors, this first tranche of supports will be used to ameliorate the immediate impact on farmers and fishermen, as the full impact of a no-deal Brexit crystallises, and to make some of the adjustments needed to improve resilience for businesses in the face of new market realities. Of course, we await developments in the UK over the coming weeks, which will determine whether a no-deal exit is likely at the end of January 2020.