The value of Irish food, drink and horticulture exports increased by 13% in 2017, to reach €12.6 billion for the first time. The figure increase to €13.5 billion when non-edible products such as forestry are included. This is according to a Bord Bia report released today.
Bord Bia report believe last year’s export performance was driven by a surge in dairy exports to over €4bn (+19%), now one third of all food and drink exports, as well as continued buoyant sales of Irish beef, up 5%, which represents a fifth of all exports at almost €2.5bn. Notable growth was also recorded for prepared foods (+17% to €2.2bn) and beverages (+8% to €1.5bn).
In terms of yearly growth rates, the dairy sector grew by almost 20% 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% this year alone, to reach €879mln. This growth accounted for over half of the total increase in dairy exports. Notwithstanding its impact on the overall export figures.
In addition to the dairy surge, pigmeat, seafood and beef all recorded strong results, with 14, 16 and 5% 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 (+17%) and beverages (+8%) 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% of total exports. This reduction disguises the fact that sales still increased for the year by 7% to over €4.5bn.
Exports to other EU countries have risen by 16% to over €4bn accelerating last year’s growth, mainly driven by strong dairy exports, which rose by over 40% to €1.2bn, as well as enhanced growth for seafood and pigmeat sales, and a continued strong presence of beverages and prepared foods.
Meanwhile shipments of Irish food and drink to international markets grew by 17% to exceed €4bn for the first time. These are driven by strong sales of dairy products in North America, Africa and Asia, and beverages which performed well in North America. Dairy accounts for some 45% of all sales to international markets, while beverages represent some 19% of total international exports.
Further expansion was recorded in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, while the United States which recorded robust growth levels to exceed €1bn for the first time. Elsewhere, exports to China, driven principally by dairy and pigmeat, grew by 5% for the year to €700m.
Speaking at the launch of Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects 2017-2018 report, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr. Michael Creed said, "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% increase in the value of food and drinks exports to €12.6 billion. 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."
Bord Bia CEO, Tara McCarthy added, "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. This coupled with the significant opportunities evident in beverages, in particular Irish whiskey, provide further reasoning for the positive outlook."