DUBLIN: The value of Ireland’s food and drink exports rose 3% last year to move beyond €10.8bn, according to the country’s food board.
Bord Bia said that the Irish food and drink sector had “recorded its sixth consecutive year of export growth”. The largest sectors were dairy, beef, prepared foods and beverages, which, between them, contributed more than €8.7m to the industry’s overall export sales.
Increased output in key sectors, favourable exchange rate developments and better returns for beef, seafood and beverages helped to offset a considerable weakening in global dairy prices, Bord Bia added.
The country’s largest export market was the UK, with Irish producers exporting €4.4bn’s worth of food and drink products to its closest neighbours – up 7% on the year before, and accounting for more than 40% of Irish food and drink exports.
The sustained growth in exports of Irish whiskey, up by an estimated 18%, was the most significant driver in the beverages category, with the UK accounting for 29% of total beverage exports.
Growth of 4% in dairy exports was in spite of what Bord Bia described as “an exceptionally adverse trading environment” and was bolstered by 25% growth in the volume of specialist nutrition powders – or 40% growth in volumes being exported to China.
Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter said: “Irish food exporters registered record growth, increasing exports by some €355m in a period when global food commodity prices declined by approximately 19%, the Russian market was effectively closed to EU food exports, and consumer sentiment remained sluggish across the Eurozone. This year will present further opportunities for growth in most sectors notwithstanding challenges from continued global dairy price pressures through the early months of 2016.”
The Irish government’s minister for agriculture, food and the marine, Simon Coveney, added: “The food and drink industry has been a driving force in our economic recovery since 2009, delivering cumulative export growth of 51%. Irish producers and companies have yet again demonstrated in 2015 their ambition, innovativeness and ability to meet buyer and consumer needs in highly competitive and complex trading environments.”
And Bord Bia chairman Michael Carey said: “I’m delighted to note that the newly defined prepared consumer foods category, which includes a range of value added foods and beverage products, rose by 7%. When the added value components from all other sectors are included, this redefined category was worth €2.5bn in 2015.”