Seafood worth €1bn despite UK dip as other markets hooked
The value of Ireland's seafood sector increased by 6.4pc year-on-year to €1.15bn in 2017, according to the 'Business of Seafood 2017' report from Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).
The strong growth was driven by a 10pc increase in the value of exports, which totalled €666m in 2017, as well as a 4pc increase in domestic consumption.
Overall, the value of domestic consumption was €429m for the year, Ireland's seafood development agency said.
During the year, the value of seafood exports to the UK fell by 7pc to €85m, with exports to Asia, which increased by 10pc in value to €79m in 2017, closing in on the UK total.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Jim O'Toole, CEO of BIM, said that the seafood industry was different to other Irish industries in that it was less dependent on the UK.
Mr O'Toole said that there had been a number of factors behind the drop in seafood exports to the UK, including what he termed "market factors", foreign exchange movements, and the attractiveness of other markets.
In respect of the Asian market, Mr O'Toole said that BIM had, in collaboration with Bord Bia, helped Irish companies to increase their understanding of the market.
Overall, the EU remains Ireland's main export market for seafood, valued at €392m in 2017 - increasing by 9pc in terms of value during the year. The report also found that the Irish seafood sector is building "significant" growth in markets across Africa and the Middle East, as well as Asia, all of which demonstrated double-digit value growth last year.
Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Michael Creed said that the report "clearly demonstrated the scale and importance of the Irish seafood sector to the Irish economy", supporting over 14,000 jobs.
"From a government perspective, it's encouraging to note how public investment is helping to strengthen an already vibrant sector to the benefit of exports and job creation particularly in rural and coastal regions," Mr Creed said.
During the year, fish and shellfish landed into the main fishing ports by Irish and non-Irish vessels rose 7pc to €401m, with Killybegs in Co Donegal achieving the highest value of landings, up almost a quarter year-on-year to €125m.
This increase was largely attributed to a 13pc increase in mackerel landings worth €83m. Almost 80pc of non-Irish landings valued at €118m comprised of hake, monkfish and megrim, with 45pc of these landings attributed to the French fleet.
Domestically, consumption comprised sales in supermarkets and shops as well as in restaurants and cafes.
Salmon, cod and prawns continue to be in favour with Irish consumers, with salmon valued at €96m and cod at €48m, the report found.
Looking to 2018, Mr O'Toole said that he expected to see continued strong demand in Continental Europe, Asia, and Africa, with the African market having rebounded from 2016.
Mr O'Toole also said that he anticipated further development in new innovations in the industry.
"As well as employment, seafood is a key driver in economic activity and in many cases is at the heart of the community," he said.