Threat of Brexit fails to put a dent in food and drink exports to UK

Bord Bia reports a 2% rise in the volume of exports but value declines 4% versus 2017

Food and drink exports to the UK from the Republic continued to rise last year even as the threat of Brexit grew, new figures show.

Some €4.5 billion or 37 per cent of all food exports from the State went to the UK, up 2 per cent versus 2017 despite significant currency fluctuations and continued political uncertainty arising from Brexit.

Bord Bia reported a 2 per cent rise in the overall volume of exports in 2018, the ninth consecutive year of growth. The value of Irish food, drink and horticulture exports declined by 4 per cent however over the year to €12.1 billion.

Commenting on the figures, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed referred to a a”resilient performance” by Irish food and drink exporters.


“Market and trade insights suggest that the global demand for Irish food and drink will remain positive in 2019, but of course the potential impact of Brexit is a very significant risk,” he said.

According to Bord Bia’s latest report, the State’s largest export categories, meat and dairy, which account for two thirds of total exports, remained stable last year.

Dairy was the strongest performer in terms of export volume growth , with volumes up 5 per cent and the value of such exports exceeding €4 billion for the second year in a row. Butter put ina particularly good performance with the value of exports exceeding €1 billion for the first time.

More than 50 per cent of Ireland’s cheese exports – of which 83 per cent is cheddar – is destined for the UK. However, the percentage of exports destined for markets outside of the UK and continental Europe rose to 22 per cent last year from 17 per cent in 2010.

The value of meat and livestock exports from Ireland rose 1 per cent to just under €4 billion in 2018, the figures show while the value of seafood exports declined by 8 per cent to €562 million, primarily due to reduced quotas in mackeral and decreased production of farmed salmon.

“Last year was an extraordinary year of instability, however the Irish food and drink exporters continued to grow business through the uncertain environment. To exceed export values of €12 billion for a second year running, and reach new record levels in terms of volume, is hugely impressive,” said Bord Bia chief executive Tara McCarthy.

Commenting on the figures, IFA president Joe Healy said the decline in exports underlined the price pressures on farmers and reinforced the importance of the UK market and the dangers that a hard Brexit hold for those working in the agri-sector.

The Bord Bia report shows that Irish alcohol drinks exports were worth €1.25 billion last year with the US remaining the largest market followed by the UK, Canada, Germany and France.

Growth in the sector was driven by continued double-digit demand for Irish whiskey in multiple markets. Irish whiskey exports are now valued at €620 million and they account for 42 per cent of total beverage exports.

Patricia Callan, director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) said the outlook for 2019 remains positive even with the threat of Brexit.

According to the report, 24 per cent of all beverage exports went to the UK last year.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist