Foreign taste for in-vogue butter sends food exports soaring to record €12.6bn
The dramatic revival of butter has seen exports soar by 60pc in value, as the rapidly-expanding dairy industry helped Ireland's food and drink sales hit record highs of €12.6bn for the first time. However, Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy cautioned they were facing in to a year where the impacts of sterling volatility and food inflation remained a key risk in the important UK market.
It comes as Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said businesses coping with the impact of Brexit will be able to tap into a low-cost loan scheme delivering up to €300m working capital finance from March.
Launching Bord Bia's 'Export Performance and Prospects' report for 17/18, Mr Creed said the eighth successive year of growth in the Irish agri-food export sector, which hit €13.5bn when forestry is included, was impressive particularly in light of the difficulties of Brexit and weaker sterling.
Last year's 13pc surge in the value of Irish food, drink and horticulture exports was driven by a 19pc rise in dairy exports to over €4bn, now one-third of all food and drink exports. Beef accounts for a fifth of all exports at almost €2.5bn, while prepared food was up 17pc to €2.3bn and beverages rose on the back of whiskey exports to €1.5bn.
"Within the dairy sector, the value of Ireland's butter exports rose by a remarkable 60pc this year alone, to reach €879m. This growth accounted for over half of the total increase in dairy exports," said Ms McCarthy, with the dairy fat now 'in vogue'.
However, the rise in dairy in volume terms was significantly lower at 6pc to 8pc on the back of the country's expanding milk pool post-quota.
After a butter bubble that saw French bakers furious at the cost of the key ingredient of their croissants hitting record levels of €6,000 a tonne, Ms McCarthy pointed out the high prices had a significant influence on the record exports. However, prices did fall back by around €2,000 a tonne late in 2017.
"The dairy market has recovered from very poor prices in previous years so that has to be compensated into it as well," added Ms McCarthy.