Irish food and drink exports values were up 8% year-on-year in the first six months of 2013, reaching €370m. Beef exports saw the biggest leap, up by 15% to €140m, and accounting for nearly 40% of the total recorded growth.
Pigmeat exports also saw a substantial increase of 9% to €250m, while sheepmeat exports were up 8% year-on-year to €105m and livestock exports increased by 24%.
Bord Bía said the strengthening of the beef market could be linked to strong demand for cattle from its Quality Assurance Scheme, which now covers 85% of Irish beef production, a 7% increase on 2012. It added that applications for the scheme have increased by 135% so far this year, and 36,400 producers are now members. “The sharp rise reflects a doubling of the bonus paid by beef processors for cattle from approved farms,” it said.
The board said beef exports had also benefited from a recovery in the UK processed beef market, with Kantar data revealing that UK retail sales of fresh and frozen burgers and grills were up 17.8% year-on-year in the four weeks ending 7 July. This was despite sales in the category dropping 43.5% in the period to mid-April as a result of the horsemeat crisis.
Cattle were also the main driver behind the increase in livestock exports, and Bord Bía said there had been a “sharp recovery” in live cattle exports this year.
The increase in pigmeat export values were attributed to a 10% increase in average pig prices, which offset a 1% drop in volumes. In contrast, sheepmeat exports benefited from increasing volumes, which offset lower lamb prices, the organisation said.
The UK remains the biggest market for Irish food and drink exports, accounting for 41% of total exports in the first half of 2013. Bord Bía said that exports to other EU markets had recovered from a “difficult period” in 2012 to account for 33% of total exports to the end of June.
“Stronger competition from European markets resulted in a slight decrease in the share of trade with international markets; however exports to Asia recorded double digit growth increasing by 15% to reach €270 million,” it said.
Bord Bía chief executive Aiden Cotter said the performance of food and drink exports was particularly impressive given that overall exports had fallen by 6%.
“Last year, Ireland’s food and drink exports surpassed the €9bn mark for the first time and the prospects for the remainder of 2013 remain broadly positive, with a strong demand for dairy and beef, combined with a more robust prepared foods performance and further steady growth in beverages,” he said.
Ireland’s minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, congratulated the agri food industry for achieving “encouraging results” despite the challenges faced during the year.