Irish food and drink exports increased by 4% to reach a record high of almost €10.5 billion in 2014.
But 2015 will be a more challenging year to maintain a sixth consecutive year of export growth, says Bord Bia Chief Executive Aidan Cotter.
In 2014, increased output in key sectors and better returns for much of the year — particularly for dairy, seafood and prepared foods — boosted the value of trade.
Much of the growth was recorded in trade to non-EU markets, with exports to Asia in particular, and the Middle East, North America and Africa recording strong increases.
Market demand in these regions helped to offset the ongoing competitive pressures evident across European markets where consumer sentiment remained fragile.
A weakening in the euro relative to sterling helped to improve the competitive position of Irish exports in the UK, as the year progressed.
The strongest performers in terms of export growth were prepared foods, dairy, seafood, poultry, pigmeat and edible horticulture.
Slower market demand and weaker prices negatively affected the value of beef exports, despite a strong rise in volumes, while beverages showed modest growth, led by whiskey.
In 2015, while the abolition of milk quotas in April is expected to lead to an increase in milk output of more than 10% for the year, the current weakness of global dairy markets is negatively impacting on price levels and recent forecasts from Rabobank suggest this trend will persist well into 2015.
Cattle supplies are expected to ease by 120,000-150,000 head in 2015, which will lead to export volumes falling by around 8%.
However, some recovery in cattle prices is anticipated.
Much will depend on demand developments in more established markets with consumer sentiment to remain a critical driver.
The prepared foods and beverages sectors both face competitive market environments, although both have shown a strong ability to diversify over recent years.
Further strong growth potential exists for whiskey in particular, while a number of key prepared food categories such as confectionery, ready meals and bakery, are expected to record further growth.
The export outlook for the seafood sector will depend on product supply.
However, value added salmon exports from Ireland are showing strong increases, and this trend is expected to continue in 2015.
The results of the annual Bord Bia industry survey, completed in December 2014, showed good optimism among food and drink manufacturers across all categories.
In total, almost 95% of the 350 respondents reported similar or higher export sales over the previous 12 months.
The industry is also optimistic for the year ahead, with more than half (52%) expecting their export sales to increase, while a further 42% expect them to be maintained.
At this week’s Export Performance and Prospects Report briefing, Bord Bia Chairman Michael Carey said, “We will continue to support the industry in its broadening of export reach and access to new markets, to ensure that exporters can maximise their potential, and hedge against market volatilities.
“The industry optimism emerging from our recent survey reinforces our efforts, and I am confident that the recent market access to the United States and the potential access for beef to China are reasons to look to 2015 with confidence.”
In 2015, Bord Bia will continue to promote Ireland’s sustainable food and drink industry through its Origin Green Programme, and its participation in some 18 trade exhibitions which will attract in excess of 800,000 business executives in Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Asia.
‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ is the theme for the upcoming World Expo, which will be hosted in Milan, Italy, for six months, starting on May 1.
World Expo is a global showcase which is expected to attract in excess of 20 million visitors.
Ireland will exhibit alongside 143 other countries, and Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme will be the key theme of the Irish stand.
In March, Bord Bia will host its largest ever Marketplace International event in the Convention Centre Dublin.
Some 450 buyers, including 300 from overseas, are expected to participate in one-to-one meetings with more than 160 Irish food and drink companies. In addition, over 100 of the international visiting buyers will participate in sector specific three-day itineraries, visiting farms and factories nationwide.
In early summer, three years into the Origin Green programme, Bord Bia will issue its first annual Origin Green report outlining the progress being achieved by the industry.
Bord Bia will also host a Global Sustainability Forum targeting the world’s leading sustainability professionals and industry leaders.
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