Last year marked the seventh successive year of export growth for Irish food and drink, with prepared foods, sheepmeat and pork growing the fastest in a record-breaking year for the country.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed said one of the notable achievements was the fact that Ireland successfully diversified its markets in a year when the UK – its largest trading partner – voted in favour of leaving the EU.
“While trade with the UK fell by 8%, triggered by challenging exchange rates, uncertainty arising from Brexit and further competitive pressures, this was offset by increased exports to international and emerging markets such as North America, China and the rest of Asia,” said Creed on 11 January.
The Minister added that Brexit had led to serious currency volatility and unprecedented uncertainty with the country’s number one trading partner. This challenge highlighted the importance of market access and the need for more “continued investment in innovation and competitiveness”.
Creed said the UK would remain a “critically important market” for Irish food products post-Brexit and did not sugar-coat the headwinds ahead as the UK looks set to trigger Article 50 by March 2017.
“The 2016 export figures illustrate clearly the importance of collaborative action by government, its agencies and the industry, and the potential for proactive effort on international markets to mitigate the risks associated with these challenges,” said Creed.
Continued food and drink growth
The strongest performers for Ireland in terms of growth over the year included sheepmeat, pork and prepared meals. Livestock exports have fallen in value, due to a reduction in live cattle shipments, while poultry exports recorded a significant decrease due to reduced price and low volumes.
Meat and livestock exports accounted for around a third of Ireland’s total exports and the value of meat and livestock for 2016 was around €3.66bn, 2% lower than last year. Prospects for meat and livestock this year are mixed. A strong rise in finished cattle supplies is expected to hit the market, while prospects for sheep and pork remain steady.
“Despite difficult trading conditions, it is encouraging to see this industry continuing to grow business and extend its global footprint to more than 180 markets around the world,” added Bord Bía chairman Michael Carey.