The value of Irish food, drink and horticulture exports reached €12.1 billion in 2018, down just 4% from a record high in 2017. This is according to Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects 2018/2019 report.
Last year marked the highest ever volume of Irish exports (+2%), representing the ninth consecutive year of volume growth. The total agri-food exports figure for 2018 was valued at €13.6 billion when non-edible products such as forestry are included.
According to Bord Bia’s new report, Ireland’s largest export categories, meat and dairy, which account for two thirds (66%) of total exports, remained stable. Bord Bia CEO, Tara McCarthy noted that total export volume increased significantly across many categories this year, although this was counteracted by global price volatility. While Irish producers exported more in volume terms (+50,000 tonnes), the Euro value recorded for those exports declined.
Dairy was the strongest performer in terms of export volume growth in 2018, with volumes up 5% compared to 2017. The value of dairy exports remained stable, exceeding €4 billion for the second year in a row. Butter had an exceptional year in the US and continental Europe and for the first time the value of Irish butter exports exceeded €1 billion for the year, representing a 22% increase on 2017’s value.
More than 50% of Ireland’s cheese exports – of which 83% is cheddar – is destined for the UK. However in 2018, 22% of cheese exports were destined for countries outside of the UK and continental Europe, a significant increase from 17% in 2010. In 2018, the value of cheese exports to Asia and to North America increased 12% and 35% respectively to a total value of €75 million.
Meanwhile, the value of meat and livestock exports from Ireland in 2018 was just under €4 billion, an increase of 1 per cent on 2017 and a record high for the category. Production volumes are up across all meat species and new markets are being targeted.
Seafood exporters suffered from reduced quotas in mackerel and from decreased production of farmed salmon in 2018. As a result and because of more broadly challenging global market dynamics, the value of Irish seafood exports declined by 8% to €562 million.
Bord Bia say the UK market remains central to Irish food and drink exports. The UK accounted for €4.5 billion, an increase of 2% compared to 2017 despite the tail effects of significant currency challenges in 2017 and political uncertainty over the outcome of Brexit.
Exports to other EU states exceeded €4 billion for the second year running, up 1% on 2017’s value. Notably strong growth can be seen in pigmeat, poultry and dairy exports to the EU, with export values increasing to the Netherlands, Italy and Spain in particular.
International markets have been the focus of exceptional growth in Irish food and drink exports over the last eight years. In 2010, Ireland’s total food and drink exports to countries outside of the EU were valued at just €1.8 billion compared to €3.45 billion last year. In 2018, international markets represented 29% of the total export values.
Speaking at the launch of Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects 2018-2019 report, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr. Michael Creed said, "Market and trade insights suggest that the global demand for Irish food and drink will remain positive in 2019, but of course the potential impact of Brexit is a very significant risk. In circumstances such as these, it is more important than ever that we redouble our efforts to extend our reach in the global marketplace, that we continue to strive for the highest quality and improve the marketability and quality of our produce."