Irish food and drink exports hit €10.5 billion in 2014

Strongest performing sectors were dairy product and ingredients which topped €3bn

Irish food and drink exports have grown by 45 per cent or €3.2 billion since 2009, out-performing all other sectors of the economy.

To put this in context, Irish merchandise exports as a whole grew by just 5 per cent during the period.

The strong performance, detailed in Bord Bia’s latest Export Performance and Prospects report, is all the more remarkable given it took place against a backdrop of global recession and several industry-wide food scandals, most notably the horse meat debacle of 2013.

The report, however, warned that 2015 will be a challenging year for the sector with the ending of milk quotas set to boost supply to a market already beset by falling prices and under pressure from weaker-than-expected global demand .


Bord Bia also noted that while a tightening of supply would stabilise beef prices, which fell sharply last year, consumer demand in the State’s main export markets remained weak.

However, it said the opening up of the US market to Irish beef imports, where prices are at an all-time high, provided an opportunity for Irish producers.

According to its report, food and drink exports rose by 4 per cent to €10.5 billion last year, equating to a record €200 million per week.

The strongest performing division was dairy product and ingredients which rose 3 per cent to exceed the €3 billion mark for the first time.

Prepared food exports increased by 8 per cent to €1.8 billion; seafood exports also rose 8 per cent to €540 million, despite the Russian ban on imports which displaced a significant portion of Irish exports.

Drinks exports also put in a positive performance, climbing 1 per cent to €1.2 billion, driven in the main by strong whiskey sales which offset a fall-off in beer and cider sales.

Irish whiskey is now the fastest-growing spirit in the world with seven million nine-litre cases exported last year; this is projected to grow to 25 million by 2030.

Significantly, most of the growth in Irish food and drink exports occurred outside of Europe, including an almost 40 per cent increase in food exports to China which reached €520 million last year.

Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter said there had been a "significant shift" in the destinations for Irish exports in 2014 with international markets showing renewed growth, reflected in a 15 per cent increase in international or non-EU trade, which stood at €3 billion last year, accounting for 29 per cent of total food and drink exports.

Overall, the value of exports to Asia jumped 45 per cent to reach €850 million. There were also increases in exports to North America (€740 million, +18 per cent), the Middle East (€330 million, +11 per cent) and Africa (€610 million, +9 per cent).

While it remains Ireland’s most significant export market, the share of exports destined for the UK eased slightly though the value showed little change at €4.2 billion, representing 40 per cent of total food and drink exports.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney said over the past five years agri-food exports grew at a rate ten times that of normal merchandise exports, making it “the most important part of our economy.”

“Every parish in this country has a stake or a dividend in this growth,” he added.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times