Irish food and drink exports valued at € 13 billion in 2020 despite Covid disruption


Some 13 billion euros worth of food, drink and horticulture products were exported from the Republic last year, despite the pandemic causing widespread disruption in various markets. This was only 2 percent lower than the previous year.

The headline figure in the latest Bord Bia Export Performance and Outlook Report was called “remarkable” in the context of such an “unprecedented” challenge.

The agency said it had highlighted “the dividends of a decade-long diversification strategy” which has enabled Ireland to expand its export base.

However, managing director Tara McCarthy has warned that the additional costs and complexity of dealing with the UK after Brexit are likely to pose significant challenges in the coming year.

Confusion over new customs and border procedures has already caused significant delays in some sectors.

The agency’s latest annual report shows that while pandemic disruptions led to a drop in beef, seafood and alcohol exports last year, this was offset by an increase in exports of pork and mutton and a further rise in the value of dairy exports, especially to Asia.

Hardest hit

Alcohol exports were the hardest hit, falling 19% to € 1.3 billion and whiskey exports by more than € 200 million.

The value of Irish seafood exports also fell by 10% to € 443 million, mainly due to a disruption in exports in the crustacean category.

Beef exports, the largest component of Ireland’s food export trade, fell 2% to € 1.9 billion in what the agency called a disruption to key markets “in plus the persistent difficulties in accessing mainland China ”.

In the UK, which accounts for 44% of Ireland’s top beef exports, Bord Bia said vast demand from retail channels had partially “offset” the significant drop in catering caused by restrictions to tackle the virus.

The decline in beef exports was however offset by increased exports of sheepmeat (up 12 percent to € 356 million) and pigmeat (up 14 percent to € 586 million) . As a result, overall meat exports increased by 2 percent to reach 3.4 billion euros.

Exports of dairy products, the most important category, rose 3% to 5.2 billion euros despite falling commodity prices.

Bord Bia said dairy is now the most geographically diverse category of all of Ireland’s major food and drink exports, with almost half exported to markets outside the UK or the EU to 27.

The report shows that the majority of food export growth since 2016 (€ 1.9 billion) has come from the EU27 (46%) and international markets (43%), with the UK accounting for only 10% of growth, according to the report. noted.

Nonetheless, the value of Irish food and drink exports to the UK has increased by € 1.9 billion or 16% since the UK voted to leave the European Union in 2016.

Revise the plan

Meanwhile, lobbyists for Ireland’s multinational alcoholic beverage manufacturing sector have called on the government to review its Level 5 restrictions and come up with a revised plan “to truly live with Covid”.

Drinks Ireland, a division of the Ibec employers’ group, has released its outlook for 2021, following the earlier release of the Bord Bia report on exports. Lobbyists have said it is “vital” for the beverage industry that the entire hospitality industry is finally reopened, as outlet restrictions hamper beverage sales.

Drinks Ireland has also called on the state to fund more overseas-based marketing staff for Ireland’s food and drink export sector. He warned that beverage makers’ reception centers are 90 percent dependent on international tourism, which is effectively blocked due to quarantine restrictions.

The group said the alcohol brand drop-in centers, which in Dublin would include attractions such as the Guinness Storehouse, are expected to focus on the domestic market for now, although even that segment is under question until now. that the current restrictions are considerably relaxed.

Drinks Ireland said such attractions would pivot their short-term offerings towards more premium experiences for smaller domestic groups, rather than targeting the large-scale groups of foreign tourists who traditionally generate their income.

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