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Rise in export revenue good for the sector

There was good news for the farm sector yesterday when the Irish Exporters Association's (IEA) review of last year showed that exports of processed agricultural goods grew by 10pc, bringing the total to €7.7bn.

The €715m expansion in exports, which would have been expected by most in the industry, confirmed agriculture as the fastest growing sector in the economy.

Commenting on the results, John Whelan, the head of the IEA, noted that growth of this magnitude represented a positive move towards the national Food Harvest goal of reaching exports of €12bn by 2020.

"Encouragingly, the strong export growth in the sector was not limited to the major food processing groups such as Glanbia, Kerry Group and Aryzta, but also in the return to the farming communities which saw incomes rise by 33pc in the year," said Mr Whelan.

Worryingly for the Irish economy, the IEA said that negative growth in the Eurozone and continuing troubles in Britain would cause serious problems for all Irish exporters.

Most international economic analysts are now forecasting a GDP average growth rate of -0.2pc for the Eurozone this year, a 1.6pc rate for the US and 1.3pc for other developed markets.

"So if growth in Irish exports is to be achieved, Irish firms must increasingly look at non-traditional markets," added Mr Whelan.

He pointed out that forecasted growth rates were 7pc for emerging markets of Asia and 4pc for the Middle East and Africa.

"[The] Irish export industry must, as a matter of urgency, diversify its export client base to include a high level of sales to emerging markets where economic growth is strongest and least affected by sovereign debt and banking concerns," said Mr Whelan.

Interestingly, the need to expand into new markets was a recurring theme at the Meat Market Prospects seminar, which was hosted by Bord Bia.

David Hughes, who is a professor in food marketing at Imperial College London, told the conference that future global population and market growth would be concentrated in Africa and Asia.

Staying with trade, the Department of Agriculture's Brendan Gleeson had good news on the Mercosur trade talks front for delegates at the Bord Bia seminar.

He said an agreement with the South American trading bloc -- which includes Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay -- would not be concluded before the French presidential election in May, while the old dispute between Britain and Argentina over the Falklands/ Malvinas has raised its head again and thrown another spanner in the works.

Vive la difference!

Indo Farming