Meat Industry Ireland, the Ibec sector association representing the meat processing industry, has welcomed the announcement by Government of a €100m capital investment programme for primary food processing.
Irish meat processing companies export almost €4 billion of Irish meat to customers in the UK, Europe and globally each year, accounting for one third of Irish food and drink exports.
The meat processing sector employs 16,000 people, with as many indirect jobs dependent on the meat sector. It also contributes to the livelihoods of 100,000 farmers.
MMI said that support for investment in transformative projects to assist the meat processing sector in market and product diversification has been a key priority for several years now, particularly in the context of Brexit.
"While the December 24 completion of a trade agreement between the EU and UK that maintains a tariff-free trading environment is very welcome, our meat processing and export companies will still be confronted with costly and disruptive Customs and veterinary documentation and checks in the post-Brexit era," MMI said.
"These introduce new competitiveness challenges as does the prospect of future UK trade deals with other trade partners, greatly increasing the battle for shelf space in the UK market," it added.
Meat Industry Ireland said that while it will continue to work to retain the place of Irish meat in the UK supply chain, market and product diversification remain a central strategy for the important meat processing sector.
"Efforts continue to diversify our meat export portfolio across European markets, but the major potential for growth and diversification exists in international markets," it stated.
"Processing, packing, refrigeration and logistics for supplying international markets across the globe require significant new investment in capability and competitiveness. This announcement from Government is important to driving the step-change in investment needed," it added.