Earlier this month, Creed (left) signed trade "protocol" with Chinese minister Zhi Shuping

Earlier this month, Creed (left) signed trade "protocol" with Chinese minister Zhi Shuping

Ireland has announced a series of ways it plans to increase its food and drink shipments in the wake of the decision by the UK - its largest export market - to leave the EU.

Michael Creed, Ireland's Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said the country needed to "intensify" its efforts after Brexit.

A seven-point plan includes more money being put into improving "market access", including "dedicated veterinary and other expertise", the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said.

The Irish government is also launching a review of existing export markets where "conditions of certification present barriers to trade or additional costs for exporters".

Creed said "securing access for Irish products and increasing penetration in international markets is a priority". He added: Against the background of Brexit, we need to redouble our efforts in this regard. There have been a number of significant successes in recent times and agri-food exports to China, for example, have almost tripled in value to more than €700 million since 2010. We are also fortunate in that we have an excellent industry-led strategy for the growth of the sector in Food Wise 2025 which provides a clear road-map for its development.

"However the potential effects of a UK withdrawal from the EU mean that we must intensify our efforts further and diversify to as many international markets as we can. This is a Government priority in response to the particular threat which Brexit poses to our agri-food sector and today's investment is a key part of this response."

The plan also includes the setting up of a "high-level market access committee" within the Department of the Agriculture, Food and the Marine, an "intensified programme" of trade missions and "increased engagement" with the European Commission.

In 2016, Irish agri-food and drink exports exceeded EUR11bn (US$11.7bn) for the first time, although the UK's vote for Brexit cut the value of trade by a potential EUR570m, according to figures released by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board. The result of the UK's referendum on its membership of the EU sparked a fall in the value of sterling, contributing to an 8% fall in Irish agri-food and drink exports to the country.