Strong meat exports and record producer prices, highlighted in Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects report 2021/2022, have been welcomed by Meat Industry Ireland (MII), the Ibec association representing the meat-processing sector.

The annual report, published this morning (January 12), revealed that the total value of meat and livestock exports increased by 4% to €3.5 billion in 2021 – a strong performance given the challenges of the year.

Below the top-line growth, individual sectors experienced differing market trends, with strong demand and higher prices in beef and sheepmeat, and a weaker market for poultry and pigmeat.

Meat and livestock exports were up 7% when compared to 2019.

In a statement from MII, it said that exports of high-quality Irish meat saw a very strong performance during 2021 despite the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic, post-Brexit trade complexities, and labour shortages.

MII was commenting following the publication of the Bord Bia report, which showed that while the overall volume of exports reduced slightly due to lower production, the value of Irish meat exports grew by 4%.

“This was reflected in higher producer prices, particularly for beef and lamb, and despite the market challenges on pigmeat, we still saw Irish pig prices outperform most of our EU competitors,” according to MII.

Throughout 2021, market performance saw record beef and lamb prices for Irish producers, it added.

“Overall, beef prices were 12% up on 2020 and reached a high of €4.57/kg for R-grade steers. For the year as a whole, the Irish cattle price matched the Bord Bia Export Benchmark Price Index and outperformed price levels in our key EU markets.”

MII said it had also been a positive and encouraging period for the Irish sheepmeat sector, which has seen record producer prices delivered throughout the year, reaching a record €8/kg high, with the overall price performance showing a 27% increase on 2020.

Better market conditions facilitated the delivery of stronger prices for beef and lamb producers.

These market conditions were determined by a number of key factors, according to MII, such as:

  • Better market balance in the supply-demand dynamic, with lower production levels in the UK and EU markets benefitting Irish producers;
  • A reduced level of meat imports into the EU market from global suppliers also had a significant positive impact on the tone of the market;
  • Despite ongoing disruption to the restaurant and foodservice segment of the market due to the pandemic, consumers have maintained their purchasing of meat through retail for in-home dining. Strong consumer engagement with the meat category throughout the pandemic remains a real encouragement.

Commenting on the export performance of the meat sector, MII senior director, Cormac Healy said:

“The meat and livestock sector remains a cornerstone of Ireland’s export economy and is particularly important to the economic well-being of rural Ireland.

“The ability of Irish meat exporters to capitalise on improved market conditions is based on the years of effort in building the best profile of customers for Irish meat, on tireless work to diversify our export markets, and on Irish producers’ and processors’ focus on delivering a high quality, safe and sustainable meat offering.”

Looking ahead to 2022, MII has highlighted a number of key issues that require focus:

  • Sustainability agenda
    Irish livestock and meat production has strong sustainability credentials but the challenge to our sector as with other parts of the economy, is to continue to work to deliver reduced emissions;
  • Brexit changes
    Further complexities and the mid-year introduction of new UK import controls could have a negative impact on trading patterns;
  • Cost competitiveness
    Rising energy cost together with wider inflationary pressures could potentially lead to dampening consumer sentiment as well as impacting cost competitiveness for exporters;
  • International market access
    The pandemic largely stalled progress on our ambitions to broadening international market access for Irish meat. With the prospect of some new inward inspection missions taking place in early 2022, we are hopeful that new markets can be secured in the months ahead. A top priority however is the resumption of Irish beef access to the Chinese market, which has now been suspended for almost two years.