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Surge in agri-food exports as 2011 figure nears €9bn

Agri-food exports have hit record highs, according to the latest figures from the CSO.

Exports from the sector finished just under €9bn for last year on the back of buoyant food commodity prices.

The result means that the agri-food sector is now two years ahead of the schedule for growth outlined in the Food Harvest 2020 report. It set 2013 as the target year for agri-food exports to first hit €9bn.

Last year's figure is up by more than 10pc on the previous year and a massive €2bn ahead of the equivalent for 2009, when the Food Harvest report was first launched.

Dairy was the star performer in the sector with exports up by 24pc to €1.776m, while meat exports were also up by 15pc to €2.759m.

However, live animal exports were down €15m on the back of a red-hot domestic trade for stock. Cereals and cereal preparations was another one of the standout categories, with exports up by more than 20pc or €50m last year. Similar trends look set to continue this year, with January figures already showing live exports down a massive €20m, but overall agri-food exports powering ahead again.

Strongly

Meat exports are up by 24pc or €42m, while dairy exports are also strongly up at 10pc ahead of the €102m total in January last year. In all, food and live animal exports are up by €41m or nearly 9pc when live exports and seafoods are excluded.

IFA president John Bryan said the strong performance of agri-food exports in the CSO figures was further evidence of the contribution the sector is making to the wider economy.

"The 10pc increase in agri-food figures is notable as overall exports were up 4pc in 2011," he said.

Mr Bryan said the Government must continue to support primary production, and ensure that confidence in the farming sector is maintained.

"Farm schemes are very important in driving output at farm level, which in turn generates economic activity in every region and is vital to the rural economy and jobs," he added.

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