Bord Bia has confirmed that the value of Irish food, drink and horticulture exports increased by 13% in 2017, to reach €12.6bn for the first time.
The figure increases to €13.5bn when non-edible products such as forestry are included.
Speaking at the launch of Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects 2017-2018 report, where the figures were released, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., said: “Last year marked the 8th successive year of growth for total Irish agri-food exports, to reach a record of €13.5bn. Industry, in line with my Department’s market prioritisation strategy, is continuing to diversify, with exports to international markets reaching €4bn for the first time. Trade with the UK, which remains our most valuable market, has grown in overall terms, despite the difficulty presented by Brexit and a weaker sterling.
“I am pleased that the significant additional resources provided by my Department to Bord Bia as a key part of our Brexit response has helped to support Irish food and drink company’s export performance in 2017, as evidenced by these results, and will continue to do so into the future,” added Minister Creed.
According to the Bord Bia report, last year’s export performance was driven by a surge in dairy exports to over €4bn (up 19%), now one third of all food and drink exports, as well as continued buoyant sales of Irish beef, up 5%, which represents a fifth of all exports at almost €2.5bn. Notable growth was also recorded for prepared foods (up 17% to €2.2bn) and beverages (up 8% to €1.5bn).
Speaking at the launch, Bord Bia CEO, Tara McCarthy, emphasised how increased volume in our key export sectors, combined with strong market returns, helped boost trade throughout 2017. “In terms of yearly growth rates, the dairy sector grew by almost 20% to reach €4.02 bln, confirming its position as the number one exporting sector. Within the dairy sector, the value of Ireland’s butter exports rose by a remarkable 60% this year alone, to reach €879m. This growth accounted for over half of the total increase in dairy exports.”
On a more cautionary note, Ms. McCarthy also highlighted the currency risk that remains for all sectors especially those such as horticulture and prepared consumer foods that are hugely dependent on the UK market. “Sterling volatility, combined with slower economic growth, food inflation and lower wage forecasts, will put further pressure on the UK market as an export destination. While the UK remains our most important market, these prospects provide an additional incentive for Irish exporters to explore new markets within the EU26 and beyond.”
The Bord Bia CEO remains optimistic about the industry’s prospects for the year ahead. “While Brexit remains the great unknown, we still expect 2018 to be another year of growth, albeit at lower levels. Our key export categories, dairy and beef, remain stable with further volume growth anticipated. This coupled with the significant opportunities evident in beverages, in particular Irish whiskey, provide further reasoning for the positive outlook.”