A report on the food and agri-business sector has found that only half of SMEs believe that they are prepared for the consequences of a hard Brexit. 

The 'Food and Agribusiness Report 2020', carried out by accountancy firm IFAC, says there has been a 54% increase in the number of food and agri-businesses who are trading online. 

The annual report studies the state of the agri-food sector. 

60% of respondents to the survey said they had accessed one or more of the Government's Covid-19 supports, with four in ten of them availing of the temporary wage subsidy scheme.

The effects of the pandemic on the sector are clearly reflected in the report, with more than half of businesses reporting a decline in turnover, a very significant increase on last year. 

With Brexit on the horizon, sentiment in the sector has also been impacted. Optimism levels have dropped to a three year low, down from 74% in 2018 to 55% in 2020. 

But the Head of Food and Agri Business with IFAC, David Leyden, said that despite some of the findings "there is real resilience in the sector". 

"We see this in the proactive steps businesses took to deal with the crisis and how nine out of ten businesses expect to be employing the same or more people in the coming year," Mr Leyden said. 

On the potential impact of Brexit, Mr Leyden said that almost one in five agri-food businesses are not prepared at all. 

"Medium sized companies were more likely to feel prepared with 59% reflecting an ability to allocate resources to Brexit planning. Increased costs, tariffs, loss of UK sales and transport disruption are the main worries," he said.

"Brexit, taking place in the middle of a pandemic, is shaping up to be a perfect storm for the sector," he added.