Milk and meat drive N Ireland food processing growth

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Northern ireland Meat

Increasing sales of milk, meats and baked goods fuelled a six per cent growth in Northern Ireland’s food and drinks processing industry last year as sales reached almost £3bn, said a government report.

The study – the Size and Performance of the Northern Ireland Food and Drinks Processing Sector – estimated that the three sectors were the main engine for food processing growth between 2007 and 2008. Sales of milk and milk products rose by £58.2m, poultry meat by £34m, beef and sheep meat by £31.2m, while the bakery subsector grew by £19m.

The milk/milk products and beef/sheep meat subsectors continued to be the two largest contributors –with combined gross turnover accounting for 49% of the total value in 2007.

The research, by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said it estimated total sales in 2008 would reach £2,97bn, up from the previous year’s £2.79bn and £2.5bn in 2006.

A full copy of the report can be found at the following link


Between 2006 and 2007, turnover increased by 7.8 per cent in current money terms. In real terms, i.e. when inflation is taken into account (using the GDP deflator), turnover increased by 4.7 per cent.

Nine of the ten subsectors recorded increases in gross turnover between the years 2006 and 2007. The largest of these increases occurred in the milk/milk products (+£91.9m), poultrymeat (+£40.7m), drinks (+£28.8m) and beef/sheepmeat (+£21.8m) subsectors.

Only the fish subsector recorded a reduction in the level of turnover (£-9.1m) between 2006 and 2007.

Economic contribution

The contribution of the food and drinks processing sector to the Northern Ireland economy is best represented by its generation of value added. In 2007, food and drinks processing activities generated £522.4 million of value added, an increase of 8.4 per cent over the 2006 figure of £482.0 million.

The poultrymeat, beef/sheepmeat and milk/milk products subsectors continued to be the three main contributors to value added in 2006 and 2007. These three subsectors generated more than half (52 per cent) of the total value added of the sector in 2007.

It is estimated that purchases of semi-processed food by the food and drinks processing sector totalled approximately £380 million in 2007. Of this amount, imported semi-processed food was worth £209 million and inter-business sales among firms in Northern Ireland were worth £171 million.

Between 2006 and 2007, the total number of employees in the food and drinks processing sector is estimated to have remained fairly constant at 18,410 full-time employee equivalents.

The ten largest businesses in the food and drinks processing sector in Northern Ireland accounted for 48 per cent of total gross turnover, 43 per cent of value added and 42 per cent of total employment in the sector in 2007.

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