"My department will continue to work closely with Bord Bia to ensure that Irish food retains its global reputation for the highest quality”.
According to Bord Bia’s new report, Ireland’s largest export categories, meat and dairy, which account for two thirds (66pc) of total exports, remained stable.
Bord Bia CEO, Tara McCarthy said that total export volume increased significantly across many categories this year, although this was counteracted by global price volatility.
While Irish producers exported more in volume terms (+50,000 tonnes), the Euro value recorded for those exports declined.
Dairy was the strongest performer in terms of export volume growth in 2018, with volumes up 5pc compared to 2017.
The value of dairy exports remained stable, exceeding €4 billion for the second year in a row.
Butter had an exceptional year in the US and continental Europe and for the first time the value of Irish butter exports exceeded €1 billion for the year, representing a 22pc increase on 2017’s value.
More than 50pc of Ireland’s cheese exports – of which 83pc is cheddar – is destined for the UK.
However in 2018, 22pc of cheese exports were destined for countries outside of the UK and continental Europe, a significant increase from 17pc in 2010.
In 2018 the value of cheese exports to Asia and to North America increased 12pc and 35pc respectively to a total value of €75 million.
Meat and livestock
Meanwhile, the value of meat and livestock exports from Ireland in 2018 was just under €4 billion, an increase of 1pc on 2017 and a record high for the category.
Production volumes are up across all meat species and new markets are being targeted. Beef exports were valued at €2.5 billion (+ 1pc), while strong price growth saw a 15pc rise in the value of sheep exports to reach €315 million.
Significant downward price pressure saw the value of pigmeat exports decline by 6pc to €666 million for the year, even though production increased by 4pc.
The value of poultry exports increased by 8pc to €316 million, as the sector reached its highest ever production levels of 157,000 tonnes.
Finally the overall value of live animal exports declined by 8pc in 2018 to €161 million despite an increase in the number of animals exported. This was due to an increase in calf exports and a decline in higher value finished cattle.
Seafood exporters suffered from reduced quotas in mackerel and from decreased production of farmed salmon in 2018. As a result and because of more broadly challenging global market dynamics, the value of Irish seafood exports declined by 8pc to €562 million.
Edible horticulture and cereal exports were worth €208 million in 2018, a reduction of 10pc on 2017, mainly due to UK market volatility. The major elements of Irish edible horticulture exports are mushrooms, which account for 40pc of the total, and cereals, which account for 36pc. The only market of significant value for both is the UK, accounting for 88pc of all cereal exports and 99pc of all mushroom exports.
The overall value for prepared foods declined by 16pc to €1.8 billion, primarily due to a significant decline in the value of exports to the US in 2018. However, confectionery, chocolate and frozen food exports saw stand out growth last year. This was driven mainly by innovation, new product development and newer channels for exporters in mature markets.
Irish beverage exports were valued at €1.5 billion, a year on year decline of 1 per cent. Volume growth in the sector is largely driven by continued double-digit demand for Irish whiskey in many markets and a sustained change in fortunes for the Irish cream liqueur category. Irish whiskey had another record year of export growth with the value of exports increasing by €45 million to €623 million.
The UK market remains central to Irish food and drink exports. The UK accounted for €4.5 billion, an increase of 2pc compared to 2017 despite the tail effects of significant currency challenges in 2017 and political uncertainty over the outcome of Brexit.
Exports to other EU states exceeded €4 billion for the second year running, up 1pc on 2017’s value. Notably strong growth can be seen in pigmeat, poultry and dairy exports to the EU, with export values increasing to the Netherlands, Italy and Spain in particular.
International markets have been the focus of exceptional growth in Irish food and drink exports over the last eight years. In 2010, Ireland’s total food and drink exports to countries outside of the EU were valued at just €1.8 billion compared to €3.45 billion last year. In 2018, international markets represented 29pc of the total export values.