The latest report from Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board) show that exports of Irish food, drink and horticulture to the UK have remained constant in value at €4.4 billion, compared to 2020.

According to Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects report 2021/2022, the strong performance demonstrates “the resilience and security of supply of the Irish food, drink and horticulture manufacturing base, despite Covid-19 and Brexit challenges.”

It’s estimated by Bord Bia that Ireland exports about 90% of its food and drink production. The UK remains a primary export market for Ireland. In 2021, 33% of Ireland’s total food and drink exports were destined for the UK. 34% were destined for international markets outside the UK and EU, while 33% were destined for the EU.

Findings of the latest report include:

  • Two-thirds of Prepared Consumer Foods (PCF) are exported to the UK and experienced a 1% increase to €1.7 billion in 2021
  • Global growth for Irish dairy continued, and exports to the UK increased by 1% to €926 million. The UK remains the largest market for Irish cheese exports valued at over €360 million
  • Sheepmeat has remained consistent with 2020 levels at €68 million.

The report also found that Irish beef exports to the UK were down marginally by 2% to €883 million explained, in part, by a slow start for demand in the first quarter of 2021. Bord Bia claims that this was due to contingency planning in case of a no-deal Brexit and subsequent stockpiling in the last quarter of 2020.

Volumes, however, increased month on month following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the opening of foodservice and more experience with the new trading realities. The UK is still the largest single market for Irish beef exports.

Bord Bia has also published new three-year targets that it hopes will further contribute to the growth in the value chain of Irish food and drink exports as part of the launch of its new 10-year Statement of Strategy.

The plan details an expansion in the value growth of Irish food and drinks exports during the period, including an 11% increase in the value of dairy, meat and livestock exports, and a 14% jump in prepared consumer food exports.

Sustainability is a core theme within the new strategy that, as Bord Bia said, will allow the organisation to “strengthen its supports and standards to reflect the high level of ambition required to meet both environmental challenges and market demands.”

“An outstanding performance”

Launching the report, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, T.D., said: “Given the difficult external factors, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and our nearest trading partner the UK moving outside the EU Customs Union, this really was an outstanding export performance by the food and drink sector, supported by Bord Bia.”

McConalogue added: “Our food and drink producers continue to innovate and seek new markets for their products, and it is truly heartening to see such an impressive performance from Ireland’s largest indigenous industry.”

“Truly impressive”

Bord Bia chief executive Tara McCarthy said: “The sector’s ability to beat its 2019 performance and deliver a record year for Irish exports is truly impressive, and Irish food and drink producers and manufacturers deserve huge credit.

“While we understandably focus on the headline figures, it is worth remembering that within those billions and millions are businesses and farms in every county in Ireland. Businesses that, whether large or small, are run by people who have faced tremendous challenges over the past 20 months, both professional and personal. It is our privilege in Bord Bia to support these wonderful risk-takers, visionaries, and innovators.”

McCarthy added that the industry needed to be cognisant of a number of key trends for this year, which were a combination of emerging issues and a longer-term shift in consumer behaviour and attitudes. These include increased supply chain and input costs, which are affecting producers and processors, and the ongoing impact of Brexit.