Minister Michael Creed announced, at the launch of Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects 2017-2018 report, that Irish Food and Drink exports recorded a record year last year.
He said last year was the 8th consecutive year of growth in the export industry.
“Last year marked the 8th successive year of growth for total Irish agri-food exports, to reach a record of €13.5 billion. Bord Bia’s report provides valuable insights into the sectors and markets behind the very welcome 13 percent increase in the value of food and drinks exports to €12.6 billion.” Creed says.
He also noted that exports reached the €4billion mark for the first ever time.
“Industry, in line with my Department’s market prioritisation strategy, is continuing to diversify, with exports to international markets reaching €4 billion 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.” Creed added.
He announced his delight at the work done by Bord Bia and the Department to help support Irish companies in lieu of Brexit.
“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 (+19 percent).
This now represents one-third of all food and drink exports, as well as continued buoyant sales of Irish beef, up 5 percent, which represents a fifth of all exports at almost €2.5bn. The report also noted growth in the prepared foods sector, up 17 percent to €2.2bn. While beverages were up by 8 percent 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 percent 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 percent this year alone, to reach €879million.” he said.
Tara noted that not only dairy saw growth last year, with sheep meat and pigmeat sales also on the increase.
“This growth accounted for over half of the total increase in dairy exports. Notwithstanding its impact on the overall export figures, it is worth noting that increased export volumes recorded for both beef and dairy also played a pivotal role in this year’s export performance. Pigmeat and sheepmeat also recorded increased volumes, at 3 and 14 percent respectively.”, she said.
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.”, she said.
Tara McCarthy said she feels this is the start of a new chapter for the Irish export industry.
“We believe we are starting a new chapter in the development of Ireland’s largest indigenous industry and we recognise that Irish exporters require higher levels of consumer insight, market information and understanding to successfully enter, and more importantly grow, in any international market.” she said.
“The longer-term outlook is positive and Bord Bia’s focus now is to put the infrastructure in place to ensure Ireland’s agri-food industry is best informed, best positioned and best prepared to avail of all possible opportunities that will arise.” she noted.
Irish Food & Drink Exports by numbers:
Dairy - +20%
PigMeat - +14%
Sheepmeat - +14%
Beef - +5%
Prepared Foods - +17%
Beverages - +8%
Seafood - 16%
Butter - +60%
In addition to the dairy surge, pigmeat, seafood and beef all recorded strong results, with 14, 16 and 5 percent growth respectively. At a lower level in absolute terms, live animal exports also registered a big lift in sales for the year, while prepared foods by 17% and beverages +8 percent, also performed well. Edible horticulture and poultry had the lowest levels of uplift – constrained by price sensitivity and volume.
The UK remains Ireland’s key export market, however the percentage share of exports to the UK declined by two points to 35 percent of total exports. This reduction disguises the fact that sales still increased for the year by 7 percent to over €4.5bn.
Exports to other EU countries have risen by 16 percent to over €4bn accelerating last year’s growth, mainly driven by strong dairy exports, which rose by over 40 percent to €1.2bn, as well as enhanced growth for seafood and pigmeat sales, and a continued strong presence of beverages and prepared foods.
Looking Ahead to 2018
Bord Bia CEO, Tara McCarthy, 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.”, she said.
“This coupled with the significant opportunities evident in beverages, in particular Irish whiskey, provide further reasoning for the positive outlook.”, she concluded