Brexit-proof? Irish food and drink 2016 exports exceed €11 billion

By Emma Jane Cash

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/bugphai
© iStock/bugphai
Irish food and drink exports have exceeded 11 billion despite the fall in exports to the UK, according to figures from the country’s food board, Bord Bia, a total increase of 41% since 2010.

This is the first time in 2016 that the figure has been so high, despite currency fluctuations with the pound sterling due to Brexit.

Michael Creed, Irish minister for agriculture, food and the marine, spoke about the report​ at its launch.

"2016 marked the seventh successive year of growth of Irish food and drink exports, with a further 2% increase recorded to reach a record high of €11.15 billion, an expansion of 41% or €3.3 billion since 2010” ​he said.

Although there has been a decrease of 8% in UK exports, exports in international markets have grown leading to an overall growth of 2%.

The strongest export in 2016 was prepared foods which saw a 9% increase.  

According to Bord Bia’s lifestyle trend survey​ consumers are looking for smarter ways to manage their time and busy lifestyles, resulting in this increase. 

Consumers are also looking for products made from ‘real’ ingredients and products that are conscious about food waste, according to the survey.

Sheep meat (4%), pig meat (4%), beverages (4%) and dairy (2%) also increased, whereas poultry suffered a 14% decline due to falling prices and lower stock.

Beef also took a hit due to a reduction in live cattle shipments and prices across the EU falling to €3.76/kg, a 4% decline.

Brexit and its negative impacts

Despite exceeding previous figures, Bord Bia estimated that a potential trade value of €570m was lost due to the weakness of the pound sterling.

The Euro strengthened by 13% against sterling, whilst there was little change in exchange rates with the US dollar.

Creed said that an emphasis on market access was needed to overcome the troubles in the trade market presented by Brexit.

"The UK will continue to be a critically important market for Irish agri-food products. The triggering of Article 50 and the continued uncertainty around Brexit will present significant challenges for the sector. However, the 2016 export figures illustrate clearly the importance of collaborative action by government, its agencies and the industry, and the potential for pro-active effort on international markets to mitigate the risks associated with these challenges," ​ he said.

International markets

Irish exports to international markets were up by 13%, with North American trade reaching ​1.1bn.

Trade with China was up 35%, reaching €845m, whilst the rest of Asia was up 6% bringing in €330m.

Padraig Brennan, director of markets, said this was mainly due to steady exchange rates.

“Since 2010, international markets have accounted for half of the growth in total exports, which reflects the industry’s ability to identify and develop new business opportunities. Irish food and drink exports to China have increased six fold in six years, while exports to North America and the Rest of Asia have doubled in the same period.” ​He said.

Bord Bia commended the food and beverage sector and commented it was encouraging to see the industry grow.

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