Both Brexit and Covid-19 have had a significant impact on the agri-food and fisheries sectors.
My Department's Brexit preparedness work has resulted in various supports being introduced over successive budgets to help the agri-food and fisheries sectors mitigate the impact of Brexit. These include supports in the form of direct aid, as well as the provision of low-cost loans such as the €300 million Future Growth Loan Scheme. In addition, in 2019, my Department introduced the Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) in recognition of a very difficult year for the beef sector and a prolonged period of price uncertainty caused by various factors, including Brexit. Budget 2020 also made provision for an initial fund of €110 million to be deployed in the event of a hard Brexit in order to help farmers, fishermen and food SMEs to deal with such an outcome. In the event, this did not prove necessary.
More recently, my Department launched the €50 million Beef Finisher Payment Scheme which is a one-off, exchequer-funded grant aid scheme under the Covid-19 State Aid Temporary Framework to provide support for beef finishing farms in Ireland that have been severely impacted by the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
All of these impacts on the farming community will, of course, be kept under ongoing review. In this regard, the recently-published Brexit Readiness Action Plan confirms that further measures to support affected sectors will be considered over the coming months. I also welcome the Multi-Annual Financial Framework agreement reached in July by EU Heads of State and Government, which includes a €5 Billion Brexit Adjustment Reserve for those Member States and sectors most affected by Brexit. We will work to ensure that the agri-food sector gets an adequate allocation from that funding.