The Irish food and drink industry has warned of serious economic disruption even if EU and UK negotiators reach agreement on a free trade deal in the coming days.

Food Drink Ireland, part of IBEC, says the sector is the most exposed part of the most exposed country to Brexit, which is now just 50 days away.

Its report, published today, warns that additional customs procedures, regulatory burdens, and rising transport costs could erode established food supply chains, both with the UK and the European continent.

Last year over 37% of Irish food and drink exports, worth €4.5 billion, went to the UK market.

Across the main product areas, no other member state has the same exposure, the Food Drink Ireland report says.

If there is no free trade agreement there would be significant tariffs across a range of agri-food products.

Even with a deal, from 1 January there will be new paperwork, certification procedures, costs, and delays. 

This in turn would erode the integrated food supply chain that penetrates the UK market, but the changes could also impede supply chains with the European market because of the UK land bridge problem.

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FDI warns that food production is interwoven into all parts of the country and economy, and it provides vital employment right down the value chain, especially in the farming sector.

Disruption to these intermediate investments could have a devastating impact on the wider economy, the report warns.

FDI says that the sector will need short-term financial support, investment in competitiveness, an export credit insurance scheme, and support to reach new markets in the EU and internationally.