Food exports surge 11% to €12.5bn

By Seán McCárthaigh

Irish food and drink exports rose 11% to a record €12.5bn last year, according to new figures from Bord Bia.

The latest annual report of Bord Bia, which is due to be published shortly, shows 2017 was the eighth consecutive year of growth for exports of Irish food and drink products with sales recorded in 180 overseas markets.

Bord Bia attributes the boost of an additional €1.2bn in sales to increased output in a number of key areas, rising demand in some markets, and to the emergence of new markets for exports which the Irish food board said was in line with its strategy to sell into new markets.

Bord Bia chairman Dan MacSweeney said the value of exports had now grown by almost 60% or €4.7bn since 2010. He said the performance was “not only noteworthy but, in many instances, remarkable”, surpassing even the most optimistic expectations.

Bord Bia chief executive Tara McCarthy, said it was “a year of convincing performances” and “exceptional results”. The strongest performer was in dairy, which accounted for a third of all export sales, followed by seafood, pig meat, sheep meat and live animals.

However, growth was more modest for edible horticulture due to strong competition as well as for beef, poultry and prepared foods.

The value of exports of dairy products and ingredients rose 19% to just over €4bn — with sales of butter up 60% to almost €900m. Beef remains the second most valuable market with sales of €2.4bn, up 6% in the year, while prepared foods rose 7% to €2.1bn.

The drinks sectors saw exports rise 5% to almost €1.5bn. Trade in live animals rose 20% last year to €175m. The UK remains the most important market for Irish food and drink exports, accounting for 36% of all sales, although it is down from 38% in 2016.

Total exports to the UK last year reversed a decline the previous year, rising 8.5% to a record €4.46bn. However, trade in the rest of Europe posted stronger growth, up 15% to over €4bn. Dairy and pigmeat did particularly well in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

Exports to markets outside Europe rose 17% to top €4bn, with Asia the most important region.

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