Bord Bia Report: 8% rise in horticulture and cereals exports in 2020

€221 million in horticulture and cereals was exported last year according to the latest report from Bord Bia.

This was despite a slight decrease of 2,000ha, since 2019, in the main cereal growing area which was 265,000ha in total in 2020.

This week, Bord Bia published its Performance and Prospects 2020/21 report which shows that exports of Irish food, drink and horticulture were held to a marginal 2% decline in 2020, valued at €13 billion.

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Winter cereals

According to the report the area of winter cereal crops in total declined by about 40% due to the poor weather last autumn. However, the area of spring barley increased dramatically in 2020.

Main cereal production was also down by about 20% to just over 1.9 million tonnes compared with 2019s production of 2.4 million tonnes.

The reduction was contributed to by fewer winter crops being planted because of poor winter weather, drought in the spring and, to a lesser extent, difficult harvest conditions. 

However, Bord Bia said that the reduction in output and yield were somewhat compensated by the increase in farm gate prices.

In relation to straw, it’s estimated that straw availability was down almost 40% compared to the previous year.

Cereal exports

In 2020 the value of cereals exports was €47 million, which is a value reduction of 5%. There was a corresponding reduction in volume exported of 2%.

This reflects a lower area grown and lower production in 2020. Exports are primarily to Northern Ireland, according to the report.

Mushrooms

Exports for mushrooms in 2020 were marginally down (-4%) on 2019 in volume, but 14% higher in value to €115 million.

The Covid-19 pandemic produced a surge in retail sales by volume, and some shortages in the market helped to push up prices.

The largest segment in the UK retail mushroom market, which is the key market for Irish mushrooms, is the pre-packed closed cup mushroom, with almost 50% share of the total mushroom retail sales.

The brown, buttons and portobello mushroom performed well, while the flat mushroom segment declined. The Covid-19 pandemic was the biggest single factor affecting the mushroom industry in 2020, and it was a positive influence on sales for Irish producers.

The UK went into a lockdown in late March, and this had a negative impact on the foodservice market, while there was a large increase in the retail market.

More people at home and working from home meant a big increase in home cooked meals, and this resulted in increased mushroom sales.

Amenity horticulture

The amenity horticulture sector relies heavily on exports to the UK for sales and 2020 produced a lot of disruptions in the market as a result of Covid-19.

Garden centres were closed in March in the UK at the start of the UK lockdown. Christmas tree sales were down on 2019 and are likely to fall further in 2021.

Bulb and daffodil exports were down on 2019 due to disruption in the Dutch auctions.

Total value of exports fell to €17.5 million, broken down as follows:

Data source: Bord Bia

Nurseries

Hardy nursery stock accounts for €7.3 million worth of exports, a decrease of €1 million over the last year. This was due to the closure of UK garden centres, but Irish producers made this up in local sales.

In 2020 there were 26 nursery stock producers exporting to Northern Ireland and Great Britain (GB). There were also five bulb/cut flower exporters, who are exporting stock to Northern Ireland, GB and continental Europe.

Challenges remain in exporting to the UK due to the exchange rate and have resulted in some UK buyers seeking to source more stock from the UK than before.

The report states that the home market is more buoyant with the uplift in housebuilding. There are still good potential opportunities in the UK and the ‘disease-free’ status of Irish stock, as well as the proximity to the UK market remain advantages for Ireland.