Will referendum result take a big bite out of our food export firms?

July 6th, 2016 11:45 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Colette Twomey says Brexit has had an ‘immediate' effect on business.

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COLETTE Twomey, who owns the Clonakilty Food Company – a company that has become world-famous for its production of Clonakilty Black Pudding – said Brexit is having an immediate effect on her company.

She said: ‘Our business is still in its infancy in the UK and the unstable currency has meant a big drop. We get paid monthly by our suppliers, and we get paid in sterling, so the rate this month will be very different from what it was last month.’

‘We began exporting to the UK in a very small way ten years ago, but about four years ago our products became available in the major supermarkets.’

The businesswoman said she believed the situation will stabilise somewhat over the next few months, but in the longer-term she admitted she was concerned about the UK’s EU withdrawal.

Alan and Valerie Kingston of Glenilen Farm confirmed that 20% of their turnover is in the form of exports to the UK.

Alan told The Southern Star: ‘There is huge uncertainty following Brexit, but we are hopeful that a free trade agreement will come into place. The UK depends on Irish imports, so it will want to keep the cost of food down.’ 

On the down side, he said: ‘Trade tariffs and customs could result in a 20% hike in export costs. But, on the up, the strength of the pound will be critical, and, in that regard, we have to take some comfort from the fact that sterling hasn’t totally collapsed.’

Dan MacSweeney, chief executive of Carbery Group Limited in Ballineen, said the UK’s decision to leave the EU is ‘a significant challenge that must be dealt with.

‘A remain vote would have been much better, but that didn’t happen so now it is a matter of managing our way through a difficult situation that has been created. It is difficult to see where all the cards will fall. 

‘One of the first casualties has been the currency. Sterling has weakened substantially since the vote, down around 10%. This is a challenge for us because we export a substantial proportion of our cheese output to the UK market – around 60% – which is significant.

‘How the Brexit negotiations with the European Commission develop will be critical to the food and agri business in Ireland and West Cork,’ said Dan. ‘It is important that the UK stays in the single market in some form. Ireland agri does not want to be dealing with trade barriers that would make it more difficult to export into the UK market.

‘Furthermore, if Brexit has a negative effect on the UK economy, then internal consumption in the UK will be affected.’

Meanwhile, Tom Ferguson of Gubbeen Cheese in Schull, has a unique take on it: ‘I don’t think it is ever going to happen. They will pull an election and that will be the excuse. I think it will be the main topic during the next election and the UK will find its way back into the system because there is no party in England who actually wants to leave.’

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