Value of Irish food and drink exports reached a record high in 2017

The value of Irish food and drink exports reached a record high of €12.6 billion in 2017, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, has confirmed.

He made the announcement at this morning’s launch of Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects 2017-2018 report

The minister explained that the value of Irish food, drink and horticulture exports increased by 13% in 2017, to reach €12.6 billion for the first time. The figure increases to €13.5 billion when non-edible products such as animal foodstuffs, forestry as well as animal hides and skins are included.

Image source: Bord Bia

Last year marked the eighth successive year of growth for total Irish agri-food exports, to reach a record of €13.5 billion, the minister said.

Bord Bia’s report provides valuable insights into the sectors and markets behind the very welcome 13% increase in the value of food and drinks exports to €12.6 billion.

“Industry, in line with my department’s market prioritisation strategy, is continuing to diversify – with exports to international markets reaching €4 billion for the first time.

“Trade with the UK – which remains our most valuable market – has grown in overall terms, despite the difficulty presented by Brexit and a weaker sterling.

“I am pleased that the significant additional resources provided by my department to Bord Bia, as a key part of our Brexit response, has helped to support Irish food and drink company’s export performance in 2017, as evidenced by these results, and will continue to do so into the future,” Minister Creed added.

Surge in dairy exports drives growth

The surge in dairy exports to over €4 billion – up 19% – drove last year’s export performance, according to the Bord Bia report. Dairy exports now represent one third of all food and drink exports.

Continued buoyant sales of Irish beef – up 5% in 2017 – which represents a fifth of all exports at almost €2.5 billion also helped to drive growth, the report added.

Meanwhile, notable growth was also recorded for prepared foods – an increase of 17% to €2.2 billion – and beverages – up 8% to €1.5 billion.

Speaking at the launch, Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy emphasised how increased volume in Ireland’s key export sectors – combined with strong market returns – helped boost trade throughout 2017.

In terms of yearly growth rates, the dairy sector grew by almost 20% to reach €4.02 billion – confirming its position as the number one exporting sector. Within the dairy sector, the value of Ireland’s butter exports rose by a remarkable 60% this year alone to reach €879 million.

“This growth accounted for over half of the total increase in dairy exports. Notwithstanding its impact on the overall export figures, it is worth noting that increased export volumes recorded for both beef and dairy also played a pivotal role in this year’s export performance.

“Pigmeat and sheepmeat also recorded increased volumes, at 3% and 14% respectively,” she said.


On a more cautionary note, McCarthy also highlighted the currency risk that remains for all sectors – especially those such as horticulture and prepared foods, which are hugely dependent on the UK market.

She said: “Sterling volatility – combined with slower economic growth – food inflation and lower wage forecasts, will put further pressure on the UK market as an export destination.

“While the UK remains our most important market, these prospects provide an additional incentive for Irish exporters to explore new markets within the EU26 and beyond.”

So, in recent months, Bord Bia – supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – has collaborated with the agri-food industry to develop a more data-led, strategic approach to export diversification and market prioritisation.

Trading in the international marketplace has been a strengthening component of our industry over the last decade. However, Brexit has – of course – placed a new urgency around diversification for many exporters.

“We believe we are starting a new chapter in the development of Ireland’s largest indigenous industry and we recognise that Irish exporters require higher levels of consumer insight, market information and understanding to successfully enter, and more importantly grow, in any international market.

“The longer-term outlook is positive and Bord Bia’s focus now is to put the infrastructure in place to ensure Ireland’s agri-food industry is best informed, best positioned and best prepared to avail of all possible opportunities that will arise,” McCarthy said.

Prospects for 2018

Concluding, the Bord Bia CEO remained optimistic about the industry’s prospects for the year ahead.

“While Brexit remains the great unknown, we still expect 2018 to be another year of growth – albeit at lower levels.

“Our key export categories, dairy and beef, remain stable with further volume growth anticipated. This coupled with the significant opportunities evident in beverages, in particular Irish whiskey, provide further reasoning for the positive outlook,” she said.