IRISH food, drink and horticulture exports increased by 13% in 2017, to reach €12.6 billion for the first time.
The figure increases to €13.5 billion when non-edible products, such as forestry, are included.
Speaking at the launch of Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects 2017-2018 report, Michael Creed – the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine – said: “Bord Bia’s report provides valuable insights into the sectors and markets behind the very welcome 13% increase in the value of food and drinks exports to €12.6 billion.
“Industry, in line with my department’s market prioritisation strategy, is continuing to diversify, with exports to international markets reaching €4 billion for the first time.
“Trade with the UK, which remains our most valuable market, has grown in overall terms, despite the difficulty presented by Brexit and a weaker Sterling.”
According to the Bord Bia report, last year’s export performance was driven by a surge in dairy exports to more than €4 billion (+19%).
Sales of Irish beef are up 5%, which represents a fifth of all exports, at almost €2.5 billion.
Notable growth was also recorded for prepared foods (+17% to €2.2 billion) and beverages (+8% to €1.5 billion).
Bord Bia’s chief executive, Tara McCarthy, said: “In terms of yearly growth rates, the dairy sector grew by almost 20% to reach €4.02 billion, confirming its position as the number-one exporting sector.
“Within the dairy sector, the value of Ireland’s butter exports rose by a remarkable 60% this year alone, to reach €879 million.”
On a more cautionary note, McCarthy also highlighted the currency risk that remains for all sectors, especially those such as horticulture and prepared consumer foods that are hugely dependent on the UK market.
She said: “Sterling volatility, combined with slower economic growth, food inflation and lower wage forecasts, will put further pressure on the UK market as an export destination.
“These prospects provide an additional incentive for Irish exporters to explore new markets within the EU26 and beyond.”