Food and Beverage Business

For the second year in a row, Irish food and drink exports surpass €16 billion

For the second year in a row, Irish food and drink exports surpass €16 billion €16 billion, drink, exports, Irish food, second consecutive year Food and Beverage Business

The food, drink, and horticulture industry in Ireland experienced a slight decline in exports in 2023, with the overall value reaching nearly €16.3 billion according to Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects report 2023/24. This decline was influenced by factors such as inflation, a cost-of-living crisis, and downward pressure on trade prices, all of which impacted consumer spending. Despite this, the industry managed to retain 24% growth compared to 2019, showcasing a resilient performance in a challenging global marketplace.

Export Performance 2023

The dairy sector, which accounts for almost 40% of overall Irish food and drink exports, saw export values decline by 8% to €6.3 billion. This decline was partly offset by increases in the value of cheese, specialist nutritional powders, yoghurt, and whole milk powder, despite reductions in butter and casein exports.

The meat and livestock exports remained largely stable at €4.2 billion, with increases in the value of beef, poultry, and live exports offsetting lower sheepmeat and pigmeat exports.

The prepared consumer foods (PCF) sector experienced a strong year in value terms, with sales increasing by 7% to €3.1 billion, driven by higher exports of meal solutions, bakery products, and soft drinks and juices. However, volume growth was muted, particularly to the UK market.

The drink exports declined by 8% to €1.8 billion due largely to short-term market factors in the North American spirits sector, while beer and cider exports increased by 11%.

Seafood sales declined by 14% to €550 million due largely to a reduction in the volume of pelagic fish and salmon exports, while exports of Irish horticulture and cereals were valued at €295 million in 2023, a 6% decline on the previous year.

Commenting on the report, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, TD, emphasized the resilience of the sector in overcoming global challenges and surpassing the €16 billion mark in exports for the second year in a row. He recognized the efforts of the industry in maintaining high-quality standards amid a period of significant flux.

The Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine estimates that the value of non-edible agri-food exports in 2023 was c.€2.3 billion. When added to the Bord Bia export figures, the total value of Irish agri-food sector exports declined by 3% to €18.5 billion last year.

Exporter sentiment 

Bord Bia Chief Executive Jim O’Toole highlighted the solid performance of the Irish food, drink, and horticulture industry in 2023, citing exporter optimism about expected market growth in 2024. Despite this positivity, factors such as energy prices, inflation, and labor costs have eroded competitiveness, posing ongoing challenges in the market.

Export destinations 

Exports to the EU saw a slight decline in 2023, with a value of €5.8 billion. The UK remained the largest single destination for Irish food and drink exports, with an estimated value of €5.6 billion. However, international markets experienced a 10% decline in trade, reflecting reduced exports to North America and Asia.

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