SHARES in Kerry, Glanbia and Aryzta all touched record highs as investors continue to bet on the long-term future of the country's three biggest food groups.
Kerry is the biggest food ingredients company in the world, while Glanbia is the one of the largest producers of nutritional ingredients. Both were among the best performing stocks on the Irish Stock Exchange last year.
Kilkenny-based Glanbia enjoyed an 80pc surge while Kerry finished the year up 43pc.
Aryzta, which makes bread and cakes such as the Cuisine de France brand sold here, is an Irish-Swiss company that was created five years ago from the remains of IAWS.
The gains have delivered paper profits worth hundreds of thousands of euro to some fortunate shareholders who have held shares in the former co-ops since they were first floated. Those gains may be set to continue for some time to come, analysts say.
Banking giant Citi told clients that investing in companies that were based here in Ireland but make most of their money abroad was a winning strategy.
In a note to the clients, Citi analysts said it may be too early to pile into the so-called euro-area "periphery", but says selective investments can work. Citi's strategist Adrian Cattley specifically advised clients to buy shares of companies like Kerry.
Back in Dublin, Goodbody Stockbrokers analyst Liam Igoe said he was not surprised that the shares had surged.
"Kerry Group announced a strong set of results this week and Glanbia is expected to do the same," Mr Igoe said. "Both companies have seen good momentum in earnings, the share price reflects that."
The food sector is regarded as defensive because it is less likely to be affected by reduced discretionary spending.
Other food companies have also been doing well. Legendary investor Warren Buffett said last month that he was buying Heinz to tap into demand for food.
Rising food prices have pushed up profits for companies and farmers, but there is also a dark side.
The United Nations warned last October that world grain reserves were so dangerously low that severe weather in the United States or other food-exporting countries could trigger a major hunger crisis in 2013. Failing harvests in the US, Ukraine and other countries this year have eroded reserves to their lowest level since 1974.
"We've not been producing as much as we are consuming," said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
With food consumption exceeding the amount grown for six of the past 11 years, countries have run down reserves.
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