BORD Bia will host a major business and export development drive on behalf of the Irish food and drink industry in Croke Park tomorrow.
Some 300 key buyers and distributors from 27 countries have travelled to Dublin for the one-day Marketplace Ireland event.
A total of 2,400 pre-arranged business meetings using the speed-dating style will bring 150 Irish companies face-to-face with the retail and food service visitors.
Each sector of the food and drink industry from meat and dairy to beverages, prepared foods and seafood will be represented and some 166 new products developed by 100 companies will be displayed.
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith will address the buyers and distributors, who will also participate in guided store visits, taste Irish food and drink and, in some cases, undertake site visits.
Agriculture and food accounts for almost 9% of jobs and 10% of exports in the Irish economy. As much as 65% of manufacturing exports by Irish-owned firms are estimated to consist of food and drink.
The value of Irish food and drink exports declined by 12% last year, or by just under €1 billion, to stand at €7.12bn.
A sustained decline in the value of sterling, combined with the economic downturn and severe difficulties in the global dairy market, was blamed for the downturn.
But the underlying performance of the industry, reflected in an estimated volume decline of just 3%, was regarded as impressive when set against these challenges. Bord Bia also believes the long-term outlook for the sector, with its high export orientation, remains positive.
Aidan Cotter, its chief executive, said Marketplace Ireland offers overseas and domestic buyers an unique opportunity to explore the capability, quality and export capacity of the Irish food and drink industry, using a highly time-efficient formula.
Established and emerging Irish companies will in turn be exposed to key buyers from the retail and food-service sectors from across Europe, the United States and Asia, he said.
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