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Ireland’s Food and Drink Exports Reach Record €16.7bn

Inflation and increased volume of goods sold overseas were responsible for Ireland’s food, drink and horticulture exports increasing 22% year-on-year to a record high of €16.7bn in 2022.

The latest Bord Bia export performance and prospects report shows food and drink exports alone rose €3bn last year and 30% on pre-pandemic levels (€13bn in 2019).

Exporters in the sector increased unit prices in response to inflation, which hovered close to double digits for much of the year, in both input and operational costs.

The volume of exports for sectors such as beef and dairy increased while prepared consumer foods (PCF) and drinks achieved new milestones in the value of their respective exports.

Value-added meat and seafood exports, part of the PCF category, exceeded €1bn in exports last year, an increase of 30% from 2021 and 23% from pre-Covid-19. The subcategory represents traditionally lower value cuts of meat.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine estimates that total Irish agri-food exports, including non-edible products not included within Bord Bia’s report, to have been worth €18.7 bn in 2022, representing a 21% year-on-year increase.  

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue described the results as “excellent,” citing the challenging conditions caused by the war in Ukraine, inflation and disruptions to the global supply chain caused by Covid.

“Against the backdrop of this difficult global trading environment, Ireland has continued to maintain its reputation as a world-class sustainable food producer and supplier, while also successfully securing new business in new markets around the world,” McConalogue continued.

Jim O’Toole, CEO of Bord Bia, said the results were “testament to the resilience of one of Ireland’s most important export industries.”

As 2023 is predicted to be another disruptive year of economic difficulty and challenging supply chains, Bord Bia will continue to be agile and responsive to client and sector needs in what is likely to be a period of ongoing volatility,” he added.

“For Irish food and drink exporters, it will be increasingly important to be aware of how consumers respond to the current cost of living crisis and to position their products accordingly.”

Of the total for Irish food, drink and horticulture exports in 2022, dairy accounted for €6.8bn, up 33% of €1.7bn from a year earlier, driven by growing exports of butter (+26%) and cheese (+25%), with more than 1.7m tonnes of products shipped to 130 markets globally.

Meat and livestock exports totalled €4bn, representing an increase of 15% or €520m year-on-year, due to rising prices but also stronger performances within the beef and sheepmeat subsectors

Irish beef exports were the largest contributor to the meat sector, valued at €2.5bn, an increase of €384m or 18% on 2021 levels. The value of Irish livestock exports grew by 8% in 2022 to reach an estimated €230m.

There were approximately 285,000 head of live cattle exported, which represented a 15% year-on-year increase.

The value of PCF exports exceeded €3bn (+17%), thanks to the reopening of the foodservice sector after the lifting of Covid restrictions as well as inflation offset by curtailed growth opportunities in the UK and Europe.

Irish drink exports rose 22% year-on-year and 25% on 2019 to €2bn, reflecting the recovery and growth of the sector following two years of disruption, especially in North America, which took half of Irish drink exports.

Irish whiskey exports accounted for 60% of the overall value growth last year, with exports valued at almost at €1bn (+25%) for the first time.

The Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) said international trade was driven by demand for premium, higher-priced whiskey, rapid market diversification across Africa and Asia, rising e-commerce channels, and increased interest from millennials and Gen Z.

William Lavelle, director of the IWA, called for the “proactive expansion” of free trade agreements with “positive trading partners” to support the continued growth of whiskey exports.

Specifically, he identified protection of free trade with the US, completion of EU trade negotiations with Australia and Kenya, and both EU and UK talks with India with a view to reducing tariffs to those markets, and the progression of talks with the South America bloc following Lula’s election as president of Brazil.

Higher prices helped drive the performance in Irish seafood, with export values increasing by 3% or €17m to reach €530m despite a 19% decrease in volumes exported, reflecting the difficulties faced by Irish seafood exporters in securing supply.

Finally, exports of Irish horticulture and cereals exceeded €300m, with mushrooms, largely destined for the UK, accounting for 50% or €152m (-6%), while cereals exports were valued at €73m (+10% on 2021).

The UK (32%) and EU (34%) accounted for two-thirds of Irish food, drink and horticultural exports overall, with the UK receiving some €5.4bn of Irish produce, an annual increase of 20% in value terms despite the roadblocks thrown up by Brexit.

In value terms, Irish food and drink exports to the EU increased by 29% to reach €5.7bn last year, and for international markets, the value increased by 23% to reach €5.6bn.

Exports to the US increased by almost 40% to more than €2bn, while exports to China declined due to Covid restrictions, but the effects were offset by increased exports to Philippines, India, Malaysia and Japan. Overall, Ireland’s food and drink exports to Asia increased by 9% to €1.5bn.

Source : Business Plus