Agri-food sector ‘must seek to shape government policy post-Brexit’

Declan Billington with guests Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen, DEFRA Minister George Eustice and Allan Wilkinson of HSBC
Declan Billington with guests Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen, DEFRA Minister George Eustice and Allan Wilkinson of HSBC

The agri-food sector must join forces to influence government policy and future international trade agreements if the sector is to survive and thrive post-Brexit Declan Billington has claimed.

Addressing the 20th annual dinner of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) its chairman also said Brexit would force the industry to adopt a truly global supply chain approach if it was to succeed in growing market share at home and abroad.

“We must find better ways to service the UK food market, reduce its reliance its imports, and develop new export markets,” he said.

“To date we have not taken advantage of opportunities to displace European imports into our home markets and to expand our global markets in the same way as other countries such as Denmark and Holland have done, particularly in the meat sector.

“A properly resourced food export marketing body is something we need now more urgently than ever to deliver on these opportunities.”

Brexit, he said, was going to happen and it was vital to make it work for the industry and not against it.

“Key to this is the potential to inject fresh thinking into how we can develop our markets for our high quality food and drink offering.

“Major concerns for the industry include the threat of cheaper imports from countries which enjoy lower cost burdens in respect of social and environmental policy, the impact on the Irish border, continued access to the EU labour market, and the increased cost of importing ingredients. These concerns and threats will need to be carefully managed and must be considered in future trade negotiations,” he said.