Some Irish food and drink exporters could be forced to cut their losses in the UK market if sterling resumes its downward trajectory against the euro, according to a survey by Bord Bia, the Irish food board.

The survey found eight out of 10 exporters had struggled to secure UK price increases to compensate for a 30% sterling fall over the past two years.

Although sterling hit a five-month high against the euro this week, "it remains the single-biggest issue for the industry", said Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter.

Bord Bia claimed one in every two companies had withdrawn from customers that were no longer profitable, changing their focus to less price-sensitive channels and customers.

To become more competitive, companies had reduced costs and staff numbers, as well as cutting spending on NPD and discontinuing some lines.

The UK remains the Republic's largest market, accounting for 44% of food and drink exports. The depreciation of sterling had reduced the value of exports to the UK by an estimated 400m last year, said Cotter. Sales totalled 3.1bn, representing a 15% fall on the 2008 figure.

In a bid to become less reliant on the UK, Bord Bia will host international buyers at an event in Dublin next month.

It is also planning to add an environmental dimension to its quality assurance schemes, enabling it to promote Ireland as the "Sustainable Food Island".