Europe’s top CEOs in food and drink gather in Dublin

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Food Drink Ireland Press release: Europe’s top CEOs in food and drink will gather in Dublin today to call for a comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU27 and the UK post Brexit

Enterprise Ireland and Food Drink Ireland (FDI), the Ibec group that represents the sector, have welcomed the visit of the board of FoodDrinkEurope, the EU organisation for the food and drink industry, to Dublin. The meeting of top European agri-food CEOs, followed an invitation by Enterprise Ireland, which is responsible for the attraction of food related Foreign Direct Investment into Ireland. The two day itinerary includes meetings with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Michael Creed as well as with the leaders of many Irish and global food companies and food R&D organisations. 

Speaking in advance of the FoodDrinkEurope board meeting, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny said, “Ireland is regarded as a major producer of quality food products within the EU and it is testament to the valuable resources, infrastructure and community surrounding the indigenous food and drink industry that the FoodDrinkEurope board chose to conduct their meeting here. The Government is committed to our membership of the EU and the single market and we look forward to our continued participation with FoodDrinkEurope through Food Drink Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, as we continue to communicate our strengths within the sector and to deepen our trading relationship within the Eurozone.”

Addressing the visiting delegation, Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland said “The food industry is one of Ireland’s most important sectors. Enterprise Ireland’s FDI client base employ over 10,000 people in Ireland and represent over 35% of our food exports. The visit of the board of FoodDrinkEurope to Ireland is an excellent opportunity to engage at senior level, allowing Irish exporters the chance to network and exchange ideas with global leaders in the food industry and explore the unique challenges facing the industry by Brexit and at the same time, discuss opportunities for collaboration in the future.” 
Danny McCoy, CEO of Ibec, stated “The dynamic and open nature of the Irish economy has resulted in Ireland remaining one of Europe’s greatest economic success stories. Many reasons can be attributed to this, but the particular strength of our exporting sectors is something to be extremely proud of. To take the example of the Irish agri-food industry, it is the largest net exporter of beef and diary ingredients in Europe, it exports to 180 countries and, accounts for one in eight jobs in the Irish economy. The success of this business model has been driven both by a strong indigenous sector and by the many international companies operating in Ireland. 

“This success also means it is a sector most exposed to trade disruption due to Brexit. The industry exports €4.1 bn of food and drink to the UK alone, 40% of total exports for the sector. The relationship with the UK, our closest neighbour, ally and of course competitor, is set to change fundamentally in the coming years. The task now is to ensure Irish interests are forcefully protected and advanced as we enter formal exit negotiations. The Irish agri-food industry must therefore play a central and strategic role in upcoming discussions. The visit of the board of FoodDrinkEurope to Ireland today is very positive from an Irish business perspective, demonstrating the support we have gathered at an EU level for our negotiation stance throughout the Brexit process."

FoodDrinkEurope President Gilles Morel, Regional President Europe & Eurasia of MARS Chocolate, highlighted that across the EU, just as in Ireland, the food and drink sector is the number one manufacturing sector in terms of employment and turnover, and the bedrock of rural communities. Speaking during the visit to Dublin, he stated “The EU single market underpins the competitiveness of an industry that has an ambition of generating value added growth of 2.5% - 3.5% per year by 2025 and is vital for further success of our industry. We call on the Irish Government and other member states to defend its future and we will make sure the voice of our sector is heard in the negotiations at European level. A comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU27 and the UK is necessary in order to minimise economic uncertainty and potential damage to the food and drink sector across all of Europe. Brexit negotiations must also ensure a transition period to protect the integrated supply chains that many European food companies have between EU27 member states and the UK.” 

Ahead of today’s meeting, FDI and FoodDrinkEurope have jointly called for discussions on the future EU-UK trading relationship to be commenced early in the negotiating process and to ensure: 

· An ambitious and balanced EU27 - UK agreement including a frictionless north-south border on the island of Ireland. 
· Clear transitional arrangements supportive of EU27 -UK supply chains. 
· Minimal regulatory divergence.