Ireland’s exports of food and live animals totaled €12 billion last year, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Latest export and import figures show that more than a quarter of all exports to the UK were food and live animals.

This included €236 million worth of pure-bred breeding horses, which were exported from Ireland to the UK during 2021, according to the latest CSO figures.

Imports of food and live animals from Northern Ireland also increased from €720 million to over €1 billion between 2019 and 2021.

Overall, Ireland exported more than €165 billion of goods in 2021 with food and live animals accounting for 7% of the total.

Exports and Imports 2021. Source: CSO

Ciarán Counihan, statistician in the international trade in goods division of the CSO, said exports of chemicals and related products accounted for 62% of the overall trade, with a value of almost €103 billion.

“Imports of machinery and transport equipment accounted for €41 billion of our imports in 2021, while imports of food and live animals were valued at over €7 billion.

“The European Union accounted for more than €61 billion of our exports, while the US was the largest single export partner with exports of €52 billion,” Counihan said.

In its report on Ireland’s trade in goods 2021, the CSO also examines Ireland’s performance from 1976-2021.

Food and live animal exports

According to the CSO, exports of food and live animals accounted for €933 million, or 40% of the value of all goods exports from Ireland in 1976.

“This had fallen to 29% by 1981, and its share of exports has continued to fall, accounting for just 7% of total exports in 2021, equating to €12 billion,” the CSO stated.

Ireland’s Trade in Goods 2021 Source: CSO

Between 2019 and the first quarter of 2022 the UK accounted for between €1 billion to €1.3 billion in exports of food and live animals – this represented between 35% and 45% of all food and live animals trade.

The EU27 had the next highest share of Ireland’s food and live animals trade over the same period – which represented between 30% and 35% of the total.

Meanwhile, the latest CSO report also highlights that the largest percentage of imports of food and live animals came from the UK.

In 2019 and 2020, the share of imports from the UK was between 45% and 50% of the total, however this has declined since 2021 to around 40%.

The EU27 share of imports of food and live animals grew from 33% in quarter one 2019 to 39% in quarter one 2021, and the CSO believes this is a side effect of the UK leaving the single market, and UK imports falling sharply