Cheese exports to the UK down in 2018, despite Brexit stockpiling

'Nobody else eats Cheddar. It can't be diverted off to France' - Aidan O'Driscoll
'Nobody else eats Cheddar. It can't be diverted off to France' - Aidan O'Driscoll
Cheddar cheese producers want to retain and grow their UK markets
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Irish exports of cheese to the UK fell significantly last year despite milk processors moving significant quantities in the later months of 2018 to avoid any post-Brexit risks.

In an outlook report for 2019, the UK's Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) said that Irish-made cheddar stocks in the UK are high.

It said Irish cheddar is likely to be maturing in UK stores rather than maturing in Irish stores and noted that volume of Irish cheese ready for sale in 2019 would likely be no different to if this was being stored in Ireland.

Ireland produced more dairy products and exported more volume in 2018 than in any previous year, according to Bord Bia.

To the UK, dairy exports were valued at €1.03bn which was also a 6pc growth on 2017’s values.

Cheese is Ireland’s largest dairy export in terms of volume and exports in 2018 are valued at €800m, a 2pc reduction on 2017 with a 4.5pc decrease in volumes shipped.

Bord Bia said that production figures have not dropped and this suggests that the decline is due to stock holding.

It said reports suggest a significant move of stock to the UK towards the end of the year, but this did not counter the overall volume reduction. Overall, cheese exports to the UK were down 9pc in 2018.

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Almost half the cheddar exported from Ireland is exported to the UK and the industry is particularly exposed to conditions in that one destination.

Bord Bia said exporters are working to expand the range of destinations for Irish cheddar exports, with some success in Asia.

Japan is now the fourth largest destination for Irish cheddar exports, importing over €27m worth in 2018, a 49pc increase on its 2017 imports. Bord Bia said significant consumer insight work is being undertaken in China to understand the needs of consumers there and it is hoped that work will yield significant opportunities for Irish cheese producers.

It also highlighted that Irish producers in 2019 will be producing an increasing quantity of non-cheddar cheeses, recognizing the tastes and needs of the emerging markets in south-east Asia and elsewhere.

"Mozzarella exports, particularly into the foodservice channel, have the potential to become an important part of the cheese export mix in the coming years.

"At the end of 2018 there are not yet any significant mozzarella production facilities online but at least two of the major Irish producers are currently in the process of building facilities to produce mozzarella," Bord Bia has said.

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