Ministers have met with Bord Bia to examine plans for market development for the Irish food and drinks sector in 2021.
Its ‘resilience’, in the midst of what is regarded as unprecedented challenges because of Brexit and Covid-19, was also acknowledged on the day.
The meeting took place virtually between Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, Minister of State Marin Heydon and Dan McSweeney, Bord Bia chairman with Tara McCarthy Bord Bia, CEO.
Bord Bia’s activities for 2021 were discussed in detail during proceedings and covered areas including new market development priorities, import substitution opportunities, operating in the post-Brexit world, and customer and farmer engagement.
“I look forward to ongoing close engagement with Bord Bia this year,” said Minister McConalogue.
“Total agri-food exports last year were at €14.3bn - only marginally down on 2019 - and this reflects a strong performance by our food and drinks industry considering the challenges posed by COVID-19 and Brexit.”
“We have a shared focus on ensuring we are doing everything we can to deliver for primary and secondary producers.
“As a pioneering food nation exporting to over 180 countries across the globe, we must always be focussed on being relevant and innovative in order to deliver for everyone in the supply chain.
“Agri-food is our largest indigenous sector and is critical to balanced economic development.
Meanwhile, Irish dairy exports rose in 2020 and the dairy industry was the most robust performer throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bord Bia said it saw a 1.3% increase in value; increases were recorded in the value of Irish dairy, pigmeat and sheepmeat exports, along with very significant increases in the value of exports to Africa and the Middle East, as new markets come to the fore.
The State agency also highlighted how global economic uncertainty continues; four fifths of the world economies are likely to have contracted in 2020 whereas in 2009 there were fewer than half contracted in the recession that took hold.
All of the world’s leading economies saw historic contractions in 2020 with the exception of China and the global expectation is that China and the US will prove to be the most resilient.
Bord Bia is also adamant that there is going to be “substantial and lasting change” because of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
And coupled with that impact, there is also the fallout from Covid-19 and its impact on economic recovery to be considered globally.
Minister Haydon pointed to the high standards that were evident in Irish produce.
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to engage with Bord Bia on planning for the year ahead,” he added.
“We will continue to work together to provide proof to our trade customers and consumers, wherever they may be, that Irish food meets the highest standards of food safety, sustainability and welfare.
“Equally we need to communicate feedback and insights from the market back to our farmers.
“There are ongoing uncertainties facing us in the context of Brexit and the continued Covid-19 global pandemic, but as a sector we have shown ourselves to be resilient in dealing with the challenges and building on opportunities.”