Irish food and drink exports have experienced another record year with an increase of 13% in 2017, reaching €12.6 billion for the first time, according to a new Bord Bia report.
The national food and drink sector has grown 60% (or €4.7 billion) since 2010, recording the eighth consecutive year of export growth.
Last year’s 13% growth (or €1.5 billion) was boosted by increased output in key sectors, rising demand in some major markets and the emergence of newer markets, according to the new 'Export Performance and Prospects for 2017-2018' report by Bord Bia.
The export performance was driven predominantly by a surge in dairy exports to over €4 billion (+19%), which now accounts for a third of all food and drink exports, followed by seafood, pigmeat, sheepmeat and live animals, according to the report.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Bord Bia CEO, Tara McCarthy, emphasised how increased volume in Ireland's 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 billion, 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 €879 million. 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,” McCarthy added. “Pigmeat and sheepmeat also recorded increased volumes, at 3% and 14% respectively.”
Irish beef sales, which represent a fifth of all exports at almost €2.5 billion, were also on the rise, up 5%. Notable growth was also evident for prepared foods (+17% to €2.2 billion) and beverages (+8% to €1.5 billion), according to Bord Bia.
Edible horticulture and poultry had the lowest levels of uplift due to price sensitivities and volume constraints.
Out of the 180 markets Ireland exports to, the UK remains its largest at 35% of total exports, despite a two point drop in share in 2017. This decline hides the fact that sales increased by 7% to €4.5 billion in the face of Brexit uncertainty.
“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,” McCarthy cautioned. “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.”
Other EU markets accounted for 33% with a 16% rise to €4.1 billion, mainly driven by strong dairy exports, which rose by more than 40% to €1.2 billion, in addition to increased growth for seafood and pigmeat sales, and a continued strong presence of beverages and prepared foods, according to Bord Bia.
Meanwhile, other international markets made up 32% and grew by 17% to €4 billion for the first time. This was driven by strong dairy product sales in North America, Africa and Asia, and well-performing beverages in North America.
Dairy accounted for almost half (45%) of all other international sales, while beverages made up as much as one fifth of total international export sales (19%).
The Middle East, Asia and Africa experienced further expansion, with exports to China growing by 5% to €700 million, driven principally by dairy and pigmeat.
The US recorded robust growth levels which exceeded €1 billion for the first time.
The demand witnessed in dairy in 2017 is forecast to continue, yielding positive returns going forward into 2018, with butter and powders in strong growth mode in key EU and international markets, according to the report.
Beverages and pigmeat also have positive growth prospects, while prepared foods and edible horticulture will continue to be susceptible to currency exposure and pressure from UK competitors and retailers.
“While Brexit remains the great unknown, we still expect 2018 to be another year of growth, albeit at lower levels,” said McCarthy. “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.”
Supported by the Department of of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Bord Bia has collaborated with the agri-food industry to develop a more data-led, strategic approach to export diversification and market prioritisation.
“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," said the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD.
“Trading in the international marketplace has been a strengthening component of our industry over the last decade,” said McCarthy. “However, Brexit has, of course, placed a new urgency around diversification for many exporters."
"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 added. "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.”
© 2018 - Checkout Magazine by Kevin Duggan