The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says Daera’s annual report on the size and performance of the Northern Ireland food and drinks processing sector reinforces the importance of securing a workable solution on the Brexit border issue.
The report confirms that Great Britain remains the largest outlet for the NI food and drinks processing sector, representing 50 percent of total sales.
The Republic of Ireland is the most important export destination and accounting for £646 million (€727 million) in trade in 2016.
"With March 2019, the date the UK is due to officially leave the EU, fast approaching the reports shows that it has never been more important to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, while avoiding additional controls on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK," said UFU president Ivor Ferguson.
"The stats show that any form of border will pose a huge challenge.
"Without frictionless market access we will not have our markets for our food, and that would be disastrous for farmers, processors and the entire Northern Ireland economy."
Mr Ferguson says it is encouraging to see an upward trend generally and especially in employment.
"We are immensely proud of our industry and the quality raw material that is produced on farms. However, it must always be remembered that the food chain can only succeed if everyone in it is profitable."