Irish food and drink exports hit over £9.5b for the first time

12 January 2017 by
Irish food and drink exports hit over £9.5b for the first time

Irish food and drink exports have reached over £9.5b, or €11b, for the first time ever.

That's according to the annual agri-food export figures from Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, whose figures show overall exports up 2% compared with 2015.

The turbulent market that followed Britain voting to leave the EU in June spurred an 8% fall in exports to the UK. Despite this, a strong 13% growth in the international markets and a 3% growth in EU markets offset the damage.

Michael Creed, Irish minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said: "2016 marked the seventh successive year of growth for Irish food and drink exports, with a further 2% increase recorded to reach a record high of £9.b, or €11.15b.

This is an expansion of 41%, £2.9b or €3.3b, since 2010.

Bord Bia chairman Michael Carey also welcomed the export results and commended the sector on its performance. He said: "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."

Prepared foods, sheep meat, pork and beverages had the most increased number of imports in 2016, up 9% and 4% respectively. Seafood imports suffered the most, decreasing 3%.

Even though Brexit did not directly affect the final figures, Bord Bia estimates that the underlying weakness and volatility of sterling negatively affected the competitiveness of Irish exports by a potential £490 million, or €570 million, due to a reduction in the value of trade.

The outcome of the UK referendum still leaves the market in a state of currency volatility and uncertainty. Creed said this challenge highlighted the importance of continued investment in innovation and competitiveness. He said: "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 proactive effort on international markets to mitigate the risks associated with these challenges."

Irish food and drink was sold in 180 markets worldwide in 2016. Around 80% of total export growth recorded last year came from trade to international markets. Padraig Brennan, director of markets for Bord Bia, said this highlighted how significantly trading to international markets with higher demand, improved market positioning and relatively steady exchange rates can boost trade.

He said: "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."

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