‘Ireland to look outside of Europe for beef export opportunities’

Over 90% of Irish beef is exported to European markets, Bord Bia’s Tara McCarthy told industry delegates at the Food Wise Conference 2017 earlier today (November 4).

Outlining Bord Bia’s and the Department of Agriculture’s market prioritisation programme, the Bord Bia chief executive said that 15 markets have been identified as possible export opportunities for Irish agri-food going forward.

With Brexit looming, McCarthy said Bord Bia is looking at those opportunities by sector. “It wasn’t a case of where Ireland Inc. should go,” she said.

But instead, the work has focused on each individual sector and the subsets within dairy, beef and prepared foods.

“Within those top 15 markets, we are seeing Asia – and China in particular – driving a presence in all of this.

Potential export markets

“When we look at dairy, we see a very similar detail on Asia and the emerging markets,” she said.

Despite the focus on these 15 export markets, McCarthy said: “One caveat that I wanted to call out – particularly for meat and dairy – was to say that these are not the top 15 markets and all others are not good for us.

“But, we’ve specifically looked at new opportunities and within our beef and meat exports particularly; we’ve excluded Europe because we already export 95% of our product there.”

She added that Irish agri-food export to the UK between the January-to-September period had been slower compared to other markets.

“If we look at the initial January-to-September figures for this year, where in general our agri-food exports are up anywhere to 14%, we see that the UK is up just 7%; showing that we are moving our focus to other markets.”

Consumer trends

McCarthy also touched on consumer trends, adding: “There are new buying habits which are really driven by the deep recession, where people are looking and searching all the time for better food.

But, there’s a polarisation towards where they shop to buy that. Is it the discounters or is it the premium stores?

“That complex supply chain makes consumers nervous as well, where they’re looking for great transparency, simplifying that supply chain – whish is challenging when you’re dealing with a global framework.

“You’re looking at new forms of food production where there’s demand for natural and clean labels; at the same time there’s a demand for increased production.

“Consumers are looking for a holistic approach to their health. They are not just looking at calories, but as food as a solution to so many of their relationships with food.

“All of the time, that’s driven by time poverty and a search for convenience and also the influence of whether you are sourcing from in e-commerce or just in top-up shops.”

On shopping habits in the UK, McCarthy said: “So much is happening because of food inflation with the discounters at an all-time high – over 12% – driven in part by a 3.3% food inflation that they have been dealing with as well.”