Taste of success as food exports grow to €10bn
IRISH food and drink exports are expected to flourish for years to come after nearing the €10bn mark for the first time ever in 2013.
Chinese demand and record world dairy prices helped Irish exports rise by 9pc last year to €9.99bn. They are up 40pc in the last four years.
Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter said the prospects were good for 2014 and beyond, with growth of another 20pc targeted by 2020.
Although there would inevitably be currency glitches and times when prices would fall along the way "without any doubt the trajectory of our food and drink exports will be upwards for a very significant time to come", he said.
The figures show that meat and dairy sales surged particularly strongly in 2013, with pizza, sweets and whiskey also selling well overseas.
Dairy exports surged by 15pc to top €3bn for the first time ever, helped by record global prices for milk.
The dairy sector performed strongly. Even though cold weather in the spring hampered milk supply, this was made up for by the long hot summer of excellent grass growth and strong milk supply.
The horsemeat scandal of this time last year did no lasting damage to meat and livestock exports, which increased by 8pc or €245m to reach €3.3bn, meaning that they now account for a third of all Irish food and drink exports.
Processed foods also fared well, with growth of 15pc to €1.65bn, with fat-filled milk powders, cooked meats, pizza, sauces, bakery and confectionery all performing well. However, trade was slower in frozen ready meals.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the figures were a "really good start to the year" for Ireland's most important indigenous industry, which employs around 200,000.
Record exports had been achieved both by the "big boys" of the Irish food industry, such as Kerry Foods and Glanbia, and by the smaller niche companies, such as Cashel Blue, which were able to piggyback on the success of the larger firms, he said.
The minister added: "With increasing demand from more affluent consumers in key world markets, there is little doubt that the €12bn export target set out in the industry-led strategy for the agri sector Food Harvest 2020 is well in sight."
Mr Cotter noted the "exceptional performance of the industry in China, now Ireland's second-largest dairy and third-largest pork market".
The UK remains Ireland's biggest export market, taking 42pc of all our overseas sales, but exports to other EU countries increased by 11pc.
Exports to China have trebled in the last three years to reach €390m in 2013. It is now Ireland's sixth-largest market overall.
Mr Cotter pointed to the growing global population, which has increased by 80 million in the past year alone, and said there would be 9.6 billion people in the world by the middle of this century, underpinning the demand for food.
He added: "This is a relentless growth that will underpin the demand for food throughout the coming decades."