Agri-food exports to UK hold firm under Brexit cloud

Despite the political uncertainty of a looming Brexit, Irish agri-food exports to the UK witnessed a marginal increase in 2018.

The UK accounted for €4.5 billion – an increase of 2% compared to 2017 – despite the tail effects of significant currency challenges in 2017.

The figures were revealed in Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects 2018/2019 report, which was launched today (Wednesday, January 9).

Exports to other EU member states exceeded €4 billion for the second year running – up 1% on 2017’s value.

According to Bord Bia, “strong growth” can be seen in pigmeat, poultry and dairy exports to the EU, with export values increasing to the Netherlands, Italy and Spain in particular.

Global markets

Bord Bia has also outlined that international markets have been the focus of “exceptional growth” in Irish food and drink exports over the last eight years.

In 2010, Ireland’s total food and drink exports to countries outside of the EU were valued at just €1.8 billion compared to €3.45 billion last year.

In 2018, international markets represented 29% of the total export values.

While the dairy sector experienced positive export results in 2018 – with volumes up 5% compared to 2017 – this was not the case for all agri sectors.

Butter exports soared to record levels in 2018; however the value of live exports dropped by 8% last year due to a hike in calf exports, according to Bord Bia.

Horticulture

Exports of horticultural produce were worth €208 million in 2018 – a reduction of 10% on 2017. The reduction is mainly due to UK market volatility.

The major elements of Irish edible horticulture exports are mushrooms – which account for 40% of the total – and cereals – which account for 36%.

The only market of significant value for both is the UK, accounting for 88% of all cereal exports and 99% of all mushroom exports.

The overall value for prepared foods declined by 16% to €1.8 billion – primarily due to a significant decline in the value of protein powder exports to the US in 2018.

Beverages

Irish beverage exports were valued at €1.5 billion, a year-on-year decline of 1%.

Volume growth in the sector is largely driven by continued double-digit demand for Irish whiskey in many markets and a sustained change in fortunes for the Irish cream-liqueur category.

Irish whiskey had another record year of export growth with the value of exports increasing by €45 million to €623 million.