Irish food and drink exports hit record €13bn in 2019 – Bord Bia

Additional reporting by Charles O’Donnell

A standout 2019 performance by Ireland’s food, drink and horticulture industry saw exports reach €13 billion for the first time, according to Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects Report 2019/2020.

The report was launched by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed this morning, Wednesday, January 8, and showed a record performance in the sector last year.

Up almost €1 billion, a growth of 7%, from the €12.1 billion recorded in 2018, this is the highest level of exports in Bord Bia’s 25-year history, according to the state agency.

It also brings to a close a “decade of consistent and extraordinary growth” in which food, drink and horticulture exports have grown by 67%, or €5.5 billion, since 2010, according to Bord Bia.

Growth across key categories and to priority markets has been achieved against a “backdrop of an increasingly complex global trading environment”, according to the agency.

Factors which impacted Irish food and drink sectors over the course of last year, in different ways, include: shifting commodity prices; weakening confidence in the global economy; and an increased use of tariffs as an expression of trade policy by the US – directly affecting Irish food and drink exports for the first time.

Export Destinations

With Irish food and drink produce now exported to over 180 countries worldwide, the report showed an increased focus on market diversification.

It was noted that, in 2019, EU markets accounted for 35% of exports (up 1%), the UK accounted for 34% (down 3%) while the rest of the world accounted for 31% (up 2%).

Diversification and driving value growth were described by Bord Bia as “two of the defining factors” for Irish food, drink and horticulture exports in 2019, with the agency reiterating its focus on positioning the premium and quality credentials of Irish produce in export markets.

This, it says, is “particularly relevant to challenged primary producers who will be seeking to maximise value in 2020 and beyond”.

Bord Bia’s Brexit Barometer was noted as continuing to be a valuable resource across sectors in assisting producers to prepare for the UK’s departure.

Outlook

In a brief outlook for the year ahead, Bord Bia’s report is “cautiously optimistic” for sustaining growth in 2020.

Bord Bia notes that, while the world economy is gearing towards a slowdown, “shifts in consumer preferences in developing economies towards dairy and animal protein consumption and production constraints impacting across global agriculture provide reasons for cautious optimism that Irish food and drink exports can sustain its path of growth in 2020”.

In the important UK market, this will be contingent on 2020 delivering a firm step forward in the Brexit debate.

Should this happen, consumer and economic sentiment seem likely to be emboldened by a clearer picture of how the future relationship between the EU and the UK will take shape, the state agency’s outlook concluded.

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