More than half of top Irish food and drink SMEs anticipate a decline in sale revenues this year due to ongoing COVID-19 impacts on their businesses, according to research conducted by Love Irish Food.
The not-for-profit organisation found that a third of its SME member brands expect sales to fall steeply (by more than 15%) in 2020, while 54% believe their sales value will be down overall.
Almost half (44%) of the association’s SME members said the decline in sales will result in their businesses employing less staff as the industry emerges from the pandemic, with just 10% expecting to increase employee numbers post COVID-19.
“The global health pandemic brought about by the spread of COVID-19 has been an unprecedented challenge for our industry and the scale of the issues we face continue to evolve at a significant pace," said Kieran Rumley, executive director, Love Irish Food.
"As a material contributor to our local and national economies, the Irish food industry faces significant uncertainty, not just as we emerge from the pandemic, but also in the face of Brexit," he added.
Separately, over half (51%) of Love Irish Food’s SME membership are experiencing greater short-term cash requirements than in 2019, an ongoing challenge for many who are struggling with narrow margins and cost competitiveness, the group said.
Rumley noted that Irish branded food suppliers have worked hard to maintain continuity of supply to the retail trade and will continue to do so as it faces into the prospect of a hard and complex Brexit.
"As a material contributor to our local and national economies, the Irish food industry faces significant uncertainty, not just as we emerge from the pandemic, but also in the face of Brexit," Rumley said.
"Maintaining food brands on shelf during this period will be a key challenge to the industry," he added.
According to the group, despite the challenges curtailing growth prospects for many food and drink SMEs, 62% of Love Irish Food members believe 2021 will be a better year for their businesses than 2020.
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