Agriculture plays a key role in the Irish economy

The extent to which the agriculture and marine sectors have contributed to economic growth year-on-year over the past five years was highlighted in the Dail recently. 

The agri-food and beverage sector plays a very significant role in national economic development, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney outlined.

“It currently accounts for 7.1 per cent of national gross value-added and 8.6 per cent of employment. It has an annual turnover of €25bn and its gross output of €20bn comprises 21 per cent of Ireland’s total industrial gross output. Between 2008 and 2012, the sector’s contribution to national GVA rose from 6.1 per cent to 7.1 per cent,” he stated.
However, these figures, significant as they are, may actually underestimate the importance of the sector to national economic development, the minister added.

“More than 75 per cent of the expenditure in this sector is on Irish goods and services, compared to 42 per cent for all manufacturing. In addition it has a lower import content and a lower level of profit repatriation than other manufacturing industries.

“In fact every €100 of exports from the bio-sector (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and drink industries) contributes around €48 to Gross National Product while the ‘non bio-sector’ contributes around €19.”
Last year, Irish food and drink exports exceeded €9bn for the first time; this means that over the past three years these exports have risen by 28 per cent, or €2bn, in total.

This trend is continuing, the latest Central Statistics Office figures for food and beverage exports show a seven per cent rise in the first half of 2013 as compared to the same period in 2012.
In terms of beef, dairy, lamb, pig meat and fishing over the past five years, the minister outlined the exports for these commodities improved from 2008 to 2012 as follows:

  • Beef – increased by 19 per cent from €1,590m to €1,900m
  • Dairy- Increased by 14 per cent from €2,290m to €2,620m
  • Lamb- increased by 27 per cent from €167m to €212m
  • Pig- increased by 43 per cent from €354m to €507m
  • Seafood- increase by 50 per cent from €335m to €501m

“Agri-food is a sector, which is confident and ambitious, is enjoying a period of strong success. This success is assisted to a large extent by the implementation of Food Harvest 2020.”

The minister said that Ireland is well on target towards achieving these 2020 growth targets.

“We have already achieved a 25 per cent increase in the value of primary agricultural output (the projected 2020 target is a 33 per cent increase). Over the same period we have achieved a 13 per cent increase in the value of our exports and value added has risen by 20 per cent.”

In relation to the scope for future development, the minister said there was a growing global urbanised market.

“World population will be over nine billion by 2050 and food production levels must increase by 60 to 70 per cent to feed this growing population. Ireland has a number of competitive advantages which leave us well placed to meet this growing demand.”

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