Bord Bia Record food and drink exports announced
One of the notable features of this achievement is the impact of market diversification in the year in which the UK decided to leave the European Union. While trade with the UK fell by 8%, triggered by challenging exchange rates, uncertainty arising from Brexit and further competitive pressures, this was offset by increased exports to international and emerging markets such as North America (+€200 mill. to reach €1.1 bn), China (+35% to reach €845 mill.) and the rest of Asia (+6% to reach €330 mill.). An overall increase of 13% in shipments to international markets, to reach a value of approximately €3.5 bn, was particularly remarkable.
Meanwhile a welcome recovery was also seen in continental EU markets (+3% to reach €3.53 bn) as improving economic conditions led to stronger demand in key categories. The Euro strengthened by 13% against sterling in 2016 while there was little change in exchange rates with the US dollar. According to Bord Bia estimates, the underlying weakness and volatility of sterling negatively affected the competitiveness of Irish exports reducing the value of trade by a potential €570 mill.
The strongest performers in terms of export growth in 2016 were prepared foods, sheepmeat, beverages, pigmeat and to a lesser extent dairy. Weaker prices negatively affected the value of beef and edible horticulture exports while lower volumes affected seafood exports. Livestock exports declined in value terms largely due to a significant reduction in live cattle shipments, while poultry exports recorded a significant decrease due to both reduced prices and lower volumes.
Export markets look set to remain challenging in 2017 amid ongoing market uncertainty. However, the pickup in global dairy demand is expected to continue while further opportunities for growth are likely in beverages. Increased beef export availability may put some pressure on returns while prepared consumer foods exports are likely to face on-going competitive pressures, most notably the UK.