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The value of Irish food and drink exports exceeded €11 billion for the first time last year, following 2% growth on 2015.
Figures announced today by Bord Bia, the Irish food board, show that the value of Ireland’s food exports was €11.15 billion in 2016 – up from €10.985 billion the year before.
It recorded significant growth in exports to North America and China, while an 8% fall in exports to the UK following its decision to leave the European Union (EU) was offset by a 3% recovery in the value of exports to other EU countries.
Britain is still Ireland’s largest importer of food and drink, accounting for 37% of all produce sold overseas, though other European and international markets are not far behind on 32% and 31% respectively.
The strongest performers in terms of export growth in 2016 were prepared foods, sheep meat, beverages, pig meat and, to a lesser extent, dairy. Weaker prices negatively affected the value of beef and edible horticulture exports while lower volumes affected seafood exports. Livestock exports declined in value terms largely due to a significant reduction in live cattle shipments, while poultry exports recorded a significant decrease due to both reduced prices and lower volumes.
The news means that the value of Irish food and drink exports has not fallen since the height of the financial downturn in 2009.
Michael Creed, the Irish government’s minister for agriculture, food and the marine, said: “2016 marked the seventh successive year of growth of Irish food and drink exports, with a further 2% increase recorded to reach a record high of €11.15 billion, an expansion of 41% or €3.3 billion since 2010. The strongest performing sectors last year were prepared foods (€1.92 billion, +9%), beverages (€1.4 billion, +4%) and dairy product and ingredients (€3.38 billion, +2%).”
“One of the notable features of this achievement is the impact of market diversification in the year in which the UK decided to leave the European Union. While trade with the UK fell by 8%, triggered by challenging exchange rates, uncertainty arising from Brexit and further competitive pressures, this was offset by increased exports to international and emerging markets such as North America (+€200 million to reach €1.1 billion), China (+35% to reach €845 million) and the rest of Asia (+6% to reach €330 million). An overall increase of 13% in shipments to international markets, to reach a value of approximately €3.5 billion, was particularly remarkable,” added Minister Creed.
According to Bord Bia estimates, the underlying weakness and volatility of the pound negatively affected the competitiveness of Irish exports, reducing the value of trade by a potential €570 million.
“The UK will continue to be a critically important market for Irish agri-food products” in spite of its withdrawal from the EU, minister Creed insisted, “however the 2016 export figures illustrate clearly the importance of collaborative action by government, its agencies and the industry, and the potential for proactive effort on international markets, to mitigate the risks associated with these challenges.”
Bord Bia director of markets Padraig Brennan said: “Some 80% of total export growth in 2016 was recorded in trade to international markets where higher demand, improved market positioning and relatively steady exchange rates helped improve the competitive position of Irish exports. Since 2010, international markets have accounted for half of the growth in total exports, which reflects the industry’s ability to identify and develop new business opportunities. Irish food and drink exports to China have increased sixfold in six years, while exports to North America and the rest of Asia have doubled in the same period.”
And Bord Bia chairman Michael Carey welcomed the export results and commended the sector on its performance.
“Despite difficult trading conditions, it is encouraging to see this industry continuing to grow business and extend its global footprint to more than 180 markets around the world. Increased export volumes were recorded across a number of key categories, with milk availability over 5% higher during the first ten months of the year and beef export volumes up 5%. The combined impact of higher output in these sectors is estimated to be in the region of €250 million.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019