The UK remained the dominant market for Irish beef in 2013 with shipments amounting to 250,000t or 53% of total exports valued at around €1.1 billion.

This is according to latest figures from the Department of Agriculture. It says that increased volumes to the UK during 2013 reflected higher availability and the relatively high prices prevailing in that market.

In its Annual Review and Outlook, the Department also noted that exports to Continental Europe were 214,000t and were worth €960m as higher exports to Scandinavia, France, Germany and the Netherlands helped offset slower trade to Italy.

It says exports to the Continent faced some price resistance in response to weak consumer demand and relatively high beef prices compared to other meats.

Exports of Irish beef to international markets increased somewhat as stronger trade to Switzerland and to a lesser extent Russia and Africa helped compensate for lower trade to some other destinations.

Overall, the Department figures show that beef exports to third countries were estimated at 8,000t and valued at €25m.

Although the majority of Irish beef exports are destined for other EU Member States, the Department state that diversifying into international markets is helpful in maximising overall returns for the beef industry. In 2013, Ireland secured access to the Iranian and Japanese beef markets.

In 2013, there was an increase of 1.2% in the output value of the beef sector at farm level to €2,144 million, resulting from an average price increase of 2% over 2012, combined with a slight decrease in volume of less than 1%.

The combined value of Irish meat and livestock exports in 2013 is estimated by Bord Bia at €3.3 billion, of which beef exports accounted for just under €2.1 billion reflecting a 5% rise in output and a 4% increase in average prices. Similarly, live cattle exports recovered strongly from the depressed levels of 2013 boosted by competitive domestic calf prices and a resumption of shipments to Libya.