Irish food and drink exports increased by 4% to reach an estimated €10.5bn, according to the latest figures from Bord Bia.

At Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects Report it reported a 4% increase in exports for 2014 to reach a record high of almost €10.5bn.

Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive, Bord Bia outlined the background to the fifth consecutive year of export growth for the food and drink industry.

“In 2014, exports grew by 4%, representing an expansion of 45% or €3.2bn since 2009. The strongest performing sectors were dairy product and ingredients which exceeded the €3bn mark (+3%), prepared foods (€1.8bn, +8%) and seafood (€540m, +8%).”

He said the significant shift in the destinations for Irish exports in 2014 with international markets showing renewed growth, reflected in a 15% increase in trade to stand at €3 billion or 29% of total food and drink exports.

“The industry’s drive to broaden export reach to destinations outside of the EU is paying dividends with growth in emerging and international markets now driving export figures, offsetting the limited growth in our established premium EU markets.”

This shift in market destination was marked by increases in the value of exports to Asia to reach €850m (+45%) as well as significant increases to North America (€740m, +18%), the Middle East (€330m, +11%) and Africa (€610m, +9%).

Within this, China recorded a further increase of almost 40% to reach approximately €520m. China is now Ireland’s second largest export market for dairy, compared to 13th in 2008.

While it remains Ireland’s most significant export market, the share of exports destined for the UK eased slightly though the value showed little change at €4.2bn or 40% of export share. Stronger export values for beverages, prepared foods, mushrooms and poultry helped offset lower beef and dairy values, Bord Bia says.

The value of exports to other EU destinations grew by 2% to reach €3.3bn equating to 31% of total exports reflecting largely static consumer price inflation across the Eurozone.

Ireland’s exports, it says, benefited from the effects of a weak euro against sterling and the US Dollar, however a strengthening euro against the Russian Rouble combined with trade suspensions had a significant negative impact on Irish exports to that region with exports falling by an estimated 30% to €170mn.

Aidan Cotter outlined the factors that point to 2015 being a more challenging year to maintain recent growth.

While the abolition of milk quotas in April 2015 is expected to lead to an increase in milk output of more than 10% for the year, the current weakness of global dairy markets is negatively impacting on price levels and recent forecasts from Rabobank suggest this trend will persist well into 2015, he said.

Industry Survey
The results of the annual Bord Bia industry survey, completed in December 2014, shows good optimism among food and drink manufacturers across all categories, it says.

In total, almost 95% of the 350 respondents reported similar or higher export sales over the previous 12 months. The industry is also optimistic for the year ahead with more than half (52%) expecting their export sales to increase, while a further 42% expect them to be maintained.