‘Virtual trade missions’ to be part of Bord Bia response to trade slump

Virtual international trade missions are set to be part of a range of measures from Bord Bia to respond to the slump in Ireland’s food and drink exports as a result of Covid-19.

Recent data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) highlighted the impact the virus outbreak has had on Irish exports in the agri-food sector, with a 2% decline in food and drink exports in the year-to-date up to May 2020, and an even more significant year-on-year decline of 9% for May alone.

The virtual trade missions form part of a ‘hybrid’ programme of offline/online trade engagement, which will also see online trade shows; training and development for virtual business pitching; and a new business development website targeting international food buyers.

Last year, Bord Bia, along with Irish food exporter businesses, participated in some 30 trade shows globally. As these have been cancelled due to Covid-19, the virtual shows are set to replace them, a Bord Bia statement outlined.

“Coming off the back of a decade of record food and drink export growth to €13 billion last year, the recent export figures highlight the real impact Covid-19 has had on international trade, with year-to-date [up to May] food and drink exports down by €126 million,” Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy noted.

“A relentless focus on market diversification is critical as we seek to trade our way through 2020 and beyond in more innovative ways than ever to deliver the additional €6 billion in exports needed to meet the ambitious €19 billion target of Food Wise 2025,” she added.

Dairy exports

The data shows that, in the first five months of the year, strong value growth offset declines in other areas in the dairy sector, accounting for €2.05 billion of exports, representing a year-on-year increase of €135 million (up 7.1%).

The UK is the only region where Irish dairy exports declined (down €66 million/17.7%), largely due to lower cheese exports.

Strong export growth on the dairy side was noted in the EU generally (up €36 million/5.5%); Asia (up €31.5 million/9.7%); and North America (up €27 million/18.6%).

Despite these strong figures, Bord Bia is warning that – due to the medium and long-term nature of dairy contracts – the full impact of Covid-19 has yet to be felt in dairy exports and the outlook for year-to-go remains uncertain.

Meat exports

On the meat side, exports have reflected the decline in demand in Europe, according to the statistics.

Beef exports to the EU (not including the UK) fell by €60 million (16%) in the first five months of the year, while beef exports to the UK fell by €42 million (11%).

These shortfalls in meat exports were offset to a certain degree by increases in volumes and values for exports to Asia and the US. Notably, pigmeat was up 22%, to €245 million, driven by strong global prices and demand from China.

Sheepmeat was up 7% in the first five months of the year, to €139 million, due to increases in exports to continental Europe.

All sectors

The export performance of all key sectors (according to figures provided by Bord Bia) is outlined in the table below:

Data source: Bord Bia