THERE has been a strong recovery in the value of Irish food and drink exports over recent months.
It has been helped by an improving exchange rate, increased meat export volumes and a stronger export performance in the beverage, dairy and seafood sectors.
Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter, who outlined the rate of the recovery at the ploughing championships, said during the first five months of 2010, the value of exports was more than 8% higher than a year earlier at almost €3 billion.
The rate of recovery has accelerated as the year has progressed, with exports in May some 23% ahead of the same month in 2009.
Generally, the export prospects for the major product categories for the remainder of 2010 are more positive.
Better market prices, an improved exchange rate and a more stable economic picture across key markets underpin trade.
In terms of exchange rates, Mr Cotter said sterling is currently 6% stronger against the euro than this time last year and on a year-to-date basis is up by 3%.
Likewise, the US dollar is currently 12% stronger against the euro relative to September 2009.
Both of these developments are providing welcome relief to exporters as Britain accounts for 45% of exports while a significant number of international markets tend to trade in US dollar terms.
Meanwhile, the global backdrop is characterised by a more positive supply and demand balance and rising commodity prices.
All product categories have shown increases with meat prices 13% higher since the start of 2010, rising to levels last seen in 1990.
The dairy price index is up by 63% to date, while cereals prices are 8% lower to date but 12% higher in August.
Mr Cotter said the recent increase in prices has been due to a combination of supply shocks in some commodities, most notably cereals, combined with improving demand in emerging markets due to population growth and wealth generation.
Meanwhile, agriculture was described as one of the solid, sustainable, productive sectors of the economy that will prosper into the future.
Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle said clear targets for the agriculture and food industry have been set in the Food Harvest 2020 Report. “As a productive sector of the economy there is a need to collectively improve the performance and productivity of the agri food sector,” he said.
Prof Boyle said the emphasis is now on getting more out of the sector, which already underpins the economic activity in rural areas.
Teagasc director of knowledge transfer, Dr Tom Kelly, said the opportunities in the agri food sector are reinforced by the upsurge in students studying agriculture, horticulture and equine studies in its courses.
“There are currently 3,200 students attending Teagasc run courses, across all centres, of which 1,155 are first year enrolments this year.
“This is the highest level for years and continues the trend of the last three years, where more young people are selecting an education in agriculture,” said Dr Kelly.
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