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Record sales for food and drink sector in 2014 reach €11bn

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Minister Simon Coveney

Minister Simon Coveney

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Minister Simon Coveney

Continuing growth in food exports is expected to yield record sales for the food and drink sector in 2014.

With total exports expected to approach €11bn this year, the Government has stepped in to revamp targets upwards for the sector.

The State's strategic plan known as Food Harvest 2020 targeted growing the value of primary output by 33pc over the course of a decade. It was considered ambitious by many analysts in 2009. But Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said those levels were already being achieved due to massive growth in the sector.

In 2009, Irish farm output was averaging just under €4.6bn annually. Today that figure is closer to €6bn, and food export sales are expected to grow by 9pc this year.

However, Mr Coveney said at the launch of a new agri-food strategy that it was time to move to a new 10-year plan.

A two-month public consultation process will now begin, with a 34-person committee of leaders in the field of food production, research, and environmental legislation. They are charged with producing a new environmentally sustainable growth strategy by July 2015.

Former secretary general of the Department of Agriculture, John Moloney, will chair the committee.

"This committee was chosen in a way to maximise the range of expertise required. All the members are very ambitious people and giving their time on a voluntary basis. But there are no passengers in this group," said Mr Coveney at the launch in Dublin yesterday.

"It is clear to me that much more can be achieved if we focus our efforts on the extraordinary opportunities presented by growing global food demand," he added.

Irish Independent