Warning 'strong' UK food exports vulnerable to hard Brexit
Food exports by Enterprise Ireland clients increased by 10pc last year to €11.6bn, with the UK described as a "very strong" market for the sector.
Food exports to China, in particular in the form of infant milk formula, had also been strong, Enterprise Ireland boss Julie Sinnamon said.
But Ms Sinnamon warned that Ireland's food industry faces being "significantly impacted" in the event of a hard Brexit.
"If there is a hard Brexit we would be concerned for many sectors but food would be significantly impacted and that is why the diversification agenda is really important.
"But a hard Brexit will impact significantly on agri-food, engineering, construction, lots of sectors."
Ms Sinnamon was responding to questions after the State agency with responsibility for supporting Irish exporters announced its results for 2017.
Total sales last year both domestically and overseas by Enterprise Ireland-supported clients topped €44.4bn, an 8pc increase year-on-year.
In what was a record year for exports from Enterprise Ireland clients, export sales recorded in 2017 topped €22.7bn, a 7pc increase on the previous year.
The UK remains the strongest export market for Enterprise Ireland-supported firms, representing 34pc of exports last year, and delivering a growth of 4pc to €7.6bn.
Ms Sinnamon said that it had been a hard-won market and that Enterprise Ireland clients will continue to sustain their position in it.
Ms Sinnamon went on to say that Enterprise Ireland was working closely with UK-dependent clients to help them trade through the unpredictability that Brexit will bring.
Exports to the Eurozone, which accounts for a fifth of all exports, saw strong growth of 9pc to €4.6bn.
Referring to this market, Ms Sinnamon said that it "has to become the domestic market… we need to make sure our companies are capitalising on those opportunities".
Construction exports by Enterprise Ireland clients grew by just 1pc last year, having grown by 9pc the previous year.
This was due to both the impact of delayed decision-making in the UK, as well as a very strong domestic market, Ms Sinnamon said.
Exports to the US and Canada also increased, up 7pc year-on-year to €3.96bn. The US-Canada market now accounts for 17pc of exports from Enterprise Ireland-supported companies.
Meanwhile exports to the Asia Pacific market were up 9pc year-on-year to €1.97bn, or 9pc of exports by Enterprise Ireland companies.
Business minister Heather Humphreys said the figures reflected "the robustness and success of Irish companies across the globe".