Bord Bia launched its annual Export Performance and Prospects 2016-2017 report today (11 January). Speaking at the launch, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr. Michael Creed TD, announced that the value of Irish agri-food and drink exports had exceeded €11 billion for the first time ever in 2016.
The Minister reported that “2016 marked the 7th successive year of growth of Irish food and drink exports”, with a 2% increase on the previous year to reach a record high of €11.15 billion. That figure marks an expansion of 41% or €3.3 billion since 2010. Minister Creed provided further details with the strongest performing sectors last year being 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.
A welcome recovery was also seen in continental EU markets (+3% to reach €3.53 billion) due to improving economic conditions. The euro strengthened by 13% against sterling in 2016 while there was little change in exchange rates with the US dollar. According to Bord Bia estimates, the underlying weakness and volatility of sterling negatively affected the competitiveness of Irish exports reducing the value of trade by a potential €570 million.
The Minister acknowledged the uncertainties created by the UK referendum on Brexit: “The UK will continue to be a critically important market for Irish agri-food products. The triggering of Article 50 and the continued uncertainty around Brexit will present significant challenges for the sector. However, the 2016 export figures illustrate clearly the importance of collaborative action by Government, its agencies and the industry, and the potential for pro-active effort on international markets to mitigate the risks associated with these challenges.”
Padraig Brennan, Director of Markets, Bord Bia highlighted how increased volume in key sectors, and an improvement in market demand for key categories, helped boosted trade throughout 2016. “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” commented Brennan.
“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 six fold in six years, while exports to North America and the Rest of Asia have doubled in the same period.”
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 10 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.”
Ross MacMathúna, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), also commented on the report: “The drinks industry is the export powerhouse delivering growth for our food and drinks sector, and is wholly committed to making a make a valuable contribution to Ireland’s exciting agri-food sector.”
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