Minister Creed recently chaired the 14th meeting of the Food Wise High-Level Implementation Committee (HLIC), where Brexit is a standing item.
Brexit supports for food companies
Minister Creed outlined the supports in place to support Irish SMEs in general, and food companies in particular, in preparing for the challenges posed by Brexit. These measures include the ‘Brexit Loan Scheme’, which will provide up to €300 million of affordable, flexible working capital finance to Irish businesses impacted by Brexit, including food companies, and which is due to be in place by the end of March. “Brexit response measures by my Department also include investing in marketing and promotion by Bord Bia, to ensure the sector has the widest possible global food print, and additional support for capital investment in the food industry.” Minister Creed commented.
As part of this investment, Minster Creed highlighted that his Department, though Teagasc, will be funding a €5m investment in capital equipment for the Prepared Consumer Food Production (PCF) Centre, in the Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, to purchase specialist processing and packaging equipment which companies can pilot, with a view to scaling up their production and/or operations. Teagasc expects to launch the PCF initiative in June 2018.
Minister Creed also highlighted the importance for SME companies to remain competitive by undertaking Lean manufacturing processes and by innovating to address challenges into the future. He emphasised the work of Enterprise Ireland (EI) and the range of supports which EI has put in place to help SMEs to address these challenges.
“I want to encourage SMEs to avail of the many supports provided by the agencies. One such support is Enterprise Ireland’s Capital Investment Initiative which is open to all SME companies. In particular, I would urge SME food companies who need to improve productivity and competitiveness through the acquisition of new capital equipment to talk to Enterprise Ireland about availing of this specific support. “
Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, added: “Now, more than ever, companies need to work closely with Enterprise Ireland to support their growth ambitions. For food and beverage companies, Enterprise Ireland offers supports across the areas of Competitiveness and Innovation including the Capital Investment Initiative and the new Agile Innovation offer. We work with clients through our Client Engagement Model which takes a holistic approach to client needs and ensures the right supports are provided at the right time for each company.”
The other agenda item at the HLIC meeting was Environmental Sustainability, with a focus on water quality, climate change and the role of forestry in climate change mitigation. A presentation was made on the Agriculture Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme, launched last December. This is an innovative collaboration between Government and industry, supporting the goals of the Food Wise strategy by promoting and encouraging sustainable farming while meeting stringent water quality requirements.
Minister Creed stated ‘We must be clear and unequivocal about our commitment to environmental sustainability. And we must ensure that the actions we take have a real and verifiable impact and deliver maximum value for the private and public investment.”