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Food and drink exports fell due to sterling drop

OVERSEAS consumers have lost their appetite for Irish fare with new figures showing that the value of food and drink exports fell by €1bn last year.

Bord Bia's Export Performance and Prospects report revealed food and drink exports plunged by 12pc last year to €7.1bn.

The fall was heavily influenced by the collapse in sterling -- reflecting Britain's status as the main export destination for Irish food and drink-- and severe difficulties in the global dairy market.

"Sterling remains the single biggest issue for the industry," said Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter.

However, there are indications that export values are beginning to stabilise and some recovery in the year ahead is predicted.

The long-term outlook for the industry, the economy's largest indigenous sector, accounting for almost 9pc of employment and 10pc of exports, remains positive, according to Bord Bia.

It said that due to an expanding world population and evolving demographics, the world will need to produce over 40pc more food by 2030 and some 70pc more by 2050.

Dairy and beef goods account for two-thirds of all exports and there are signs that the upturn in international prices has already taken place.

"In beef, we see supply around Europe being tighter, with consumption staying relatively stable, so that will have a positive impact on prices," Mr Cotter said.

A breakdown of the sectors showed exports of meat and livestock fell 9pc to € 2.25bn, with beef dropped by 13pc to € 1.4bn.

Dairy exports were down 13pc to € 2bn and pig meat exports plummeted by 15pc to €290m.

Ireland's uniqueness within the eurozone, sharing a land border with the sterling area, has compounded the industry's domestic market difficulties.

Last year Irish food and drinks companies cut their exposure to Britain, drawing 43pc of their export income from the sterling zone in the final months of the year against 48pc in January.

Britain remained Ireland's principal export destination in 2009 with sales valued at just under €3.1bn, a decrease of 15pc compared to the 2008 figures.

The survey of 350 Bord Bia companies found that just 70pc believe they could keep their British trade up if 90p exchange rates remained indefinitely.