MULTIPLE Irish food brands are being forced to take drastic measures to protect their business from the negative impact of new customs rules now in place due to Brexit.
On January 1, 2021 Britain’s Brexit transition period ended.
The nation’s formal exit of the EU’s single market saw a new customs regime brought into effect.
It requires businesses importing and exporting between Britain and the EU to complete extra paperwork, cover extra costs, make previously unnecessary declarations and, at times, suffer business-breaking delays when their products are held at the border.
For Irish food and drink brands, many who have worked closely with British suppliers and buyers for decades, the new rules have caused confusion and uncertainty at the very least.
In the worst cases the new customs framework has forced them to break their ties with their British partners entirely, opting to find alternative options who are based within the EU.
In a special Irish Post report, we spoke to three Irish businesses in the food and drinks sector, about their experience of the new Brexit-imposed customs regulations.
For Patricia Farrell, who runs Wilde Irish Chocolates from her artisan chocolate factory in east Clare, the new rules have had a significant impact on the business.
“We have been affected adversely by Brexit, especially in our supply chain, as we have found it challenging to acquire products from our usual suppliers in the UK because of customs issues,” she told The Irish Post.
“We consequently have worked hard to supplant these suppliers with those from EU countries.”
For Colm Healy, owner at Skelligs Chocolate in Kerry, it has been a similar experience.
“Brexit caused confusion and uncertainty on one hand, and extra paperwork, delays and costs on the other,” he told The Irish Post.
“We have taken the decision now not to ship to the UK…and we are trying to source ingredients from EU countries only.”
Joe Murphy is Managing Director at All Ireland Foods, a Wexford based firm which exports Irish food brands across the world.
The company was forced to suspend all chilled food deliveries to the UK for a number of weeks following the rule changes that came into effect on January 1.
“It was taking two weeks for parcels to get through customs and by that time the food had spoiled,” he told The Irish Post.
Read their accounts in full below...
WILDE IRISH CHOCOLATES
Patricia Farrell, owner of Wilde Irish Chocolate, is an artisan chocolate producer whose factory is based in Tuamgraney, east Clare on the shores of Lough Derg.
They also have a store in Doolin, Co. Clare and at the Limerick Milk Market.
The firm, which is made up of a small, dedicated team, who handmake over eighty different types of chocolate, eighteen varieties of fudge and many other delicious chocolaty treats, was founded in 1997.
Having established itself as a leading chocolate producer in Ireland, it has also become a favourite for sweet-toothed customers in Britain, with their goods regularly being sent over by Irish fans as gifts for loved ones away from home.
Sadly, since the onset of Brexit, the firm is no longer trading with the UK.
“Have we been impacted by Brexit? - the only answer is yes,” she told The Irish Post.
“We have been affected adversely by Brexit, especially in our supply chain, as we have found it challenging to acquire products from our usual suppliers in the UK because of customs issues,” she added.
“We consequently have worked hard to supplant these suppliers with those from EU countries, The main result being that we have spent far less money on UK suppliers,” the businesswoman admits.
“We also have reluctantly taken delivery to UK addresses off our website as the additional customs and other charges levied on the recipients makes it excessively expensive to receive even the most inexpensive chocolate gifts from friends in Ireland.”
ALL IRELAND FOODS
Joe Murphy is the Managing Director Joe Murphy is Managing Director at All Ireland Foods, a Wexford based firm which exports Irish food brands across the world.
After initially being forced to suspend all chilled food exports to Britain, due to customs hold ups ruining the produce, the heartache being faced by British exporters at the border has gone on to provide something of a win for the business.
“Believe it or not, Brexit has benefited a lot of Irish food businesses and as an Irish hero Daniel O'Connell once said, England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity,” Mr Murphy told The Irish Post.
“We have seen a 20 per cent increase in organic sales due to Brexit because British expats living across the EU cannot get their food sent over from the UK anymore, because of the tariffs, delays in delivery and some food products like fresh meat the EU won't allow in.”
He explained: “My target market is Irish expats living abroad wanting Irish food and our business model is, if it's not grown, raised or manufactured on the island of Ireland we won't sell it on our site.
“We now have British expats contacting us and placing orders because they can't get the cuts of meat they want, like ham, sausages, rashers and pudding etc.
“We offer next day delivery of chilled food across mainland Europe and the feedback we get of the quality we send out is phenomenal.”
It hasn’t all been positive for the firm, however.
“The issue we had was that we had to suspend all chilled food deliveries to the UK because it was taking two weeks for parcels to get through customs and by that time the food had spoiled,” Mr Murphy reveals.
“In the last week, we have started to send chilled food to the UK because the UK ports are starting to resume to pre-Brexit service,” he adds.
For Mr Murphy, if your business is in a position to fill the gaps in the market caused by Brexit there is money to be made.
“There are hundreds if not thousands of British food shops across Europe serving British expats and these shops were supplied by Marks & Spencer and CO-OP,” he explains.
“Now these shops’ shelves are empty and these big British multiples cannot send stock to them and guess who is now supplying these British shops?
“Yes you guessed it, Irish wholesalers.
“From speaking to Musgraves and Stonehouse, these guys are sending containers full of Irish food to fill British shelves.”
Colm Healy is the owner of Skelligs Chocolate.
Located on The Skelligs Ring, just off the main Ring of Kerry road, and nestled along the Wild Atlantic Way, the firm boasts Ireland’s only fully ‘open plan’ chocolate production kitchen, where you can get up close and see their products being made in front of you.
Those products have always featured some raw materials imported from Britain by the family-run business.
Now, with Brexit customs checks proving too much hassle for a relatively small business, they are opting to find their ingredients from EU countries only.
“To be honest the impact of Brexit is very straight forward as to the hassles it’s causing us and many small businesses both in Ireland and the UK,” Mr Healy told The Irish Post.
“It’s confusion and uncertainty on one hand, and extra paperwork, delays and costs on the other.”
He explained: “Customers are not sure if when they order from us that it will come promptly and if there could be extra charges due, depending on what they order and how much the order value is.
“Then when we are trying to buy raw materials there are supply chain delays and added costs due to paperwork or in extreme circumstances the ingredients might not be able to be exported to the EU any more.”
He added: “It’s not a huge disruption now as we have taken the decision now not to ship to the UK, excluding Northern Ireland, and we are trying to source ingredients from EU countries only.
“But it is still inconvenient.”