But­ter oiled the wheels of 2018 agri-ex­ports

Irish Examiner - Farming - - FRONT PAGE - Stephen Cado­gan

But­ter oiled the wheels of Ir­ish food and drink ex­ports in 2018, with the an­nual value of Ir­ish but­ter ex­ports ex­ceed­ing €1bn for the first time. This was a 22% in­crease on 2017’s but­ter trade value, re­sult­ing in an ex­cep­tional year for the but­ter trade in the US and con­ti­nen­tal Europe. This was a wel­come di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion from the Brex­it­prone food and drink trade to the UK.

How­ever, yes­ter­day’s Ex­port Per­for­mance and Prospects re­port by Bord Bia con­firmed a 3% in­crease in the value of these ex­ports to the UK in 2018, reach­ing €4.5bn, or 37% of all Ir­ish food and drink ex­ports.

The food and drink in­dus­try is par­tic­u­larly ex­posed as part of Ire­land’s vul­ner­a­bil­ity to a no-deal UK exit from the EU next March, which the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund has es­ti­mated would drag Ire­land’s GDP down by 4%. Sec­tors such as pre­pared con­sumer food, hor­ti­cul­ture and live an­i­mal ex­ports are ex­tremely de­pen­dent on ex­ports to the UK. Nev­er­the­less, 2018 was still a good year for the food and drink trade, with the vol­ume of ex­ports slightly up (by 1%) in Ire­land’s ninth con­sec­u­tive year of ex­port growth in vol­ume terms.

But the value of these ex­ports fell back 4%, to an es­ti­mated €12.11bn.

Key driv­ers of the 2018 per­for­mance were the vol­ume growth in the meat trade, b u t c o u n t e r e d by p r i c e pres­sure; the in­crease in milk avail­abil­ity and the buoy­ant but­ter price; quo­tas and pro­duc­tion lim­i­ta­tions chal­leng­ing seafood ex­ports; multi­na­tional trans­fer pric­ing ac­tiv­ity in the dairy sec­tor; and global food price de­clines, said Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed and Bord Bia CEO Tara Mc­carthy when they launched the Ex­port Per­for­mance and Prospects re­port in Dublin yes­ter­day. Although the strong­est per­former in terms of ex­port growth in 2018 was the dairy sec­tor, with vol­umes up 5%, it was af­fected by a change in trans­fer pric­ing ac­count­ing pro­cesses in one of the man­u­fac­tur­ing multi­na­tion­als, which cre­ated a de­cline in the value of ex­ports in spe­cialised nutri­tional pow­ders, a trade which has in­creased from less than €600m in 2010 to €1.1bn in 2018.

China is the des­ti­na­tion for 50% of the spe­cialised nutri­tional pow­ders ex­ported from Ire­land in 2018.

The dairy and meat/live­stock cat­e­gories con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate food and drink ex­ports in 2018, each with 33% of the ex­port value, with pre­pared foods at 15%, bev­er­ages 12%, seafood 5%, and hor­ti­cul­ture and ce­re­als 2%.

A 3% rise in Ir­ish beef pro­duc­tion shoved up ex­port vol­umes, but beef prices tight­ened 1.8% for ex­porters.

The break­through for Ir­ish beef ex­port ac­cess to China last April opened the way for ship­ment of over 1,000 tonnes of beef in 2018, ac­cord­ing to Bord Bia.

There was notable suc­cess in 2018 for some in­dus­try sub­sec­tors.

Poul­try ex­ports rose 8% to €316m. The poul­try in­dus­try is set to pro­duce 100m birds for the first time, in 2019. Ir­ish choco­late man­u­fac­tur­ers en­joyed an ex­cep­tional year of ex­port growth, at 13%. With the US mar­ket for Ir­ish whiskey grow­ing more than 10% in 2018, the value of Ir­ish bev­er­age ex­ports, both al­co­hol and non-al­co­holic, now stands at al­most €1.5bn.

Pic­ture; Colm Ma­hady

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed and Bord Bia CEO Tara Mc­carthy at yes­ter­day’s launch of Bord Bia’s Ex­port Per­for­mance and Prospects 2018-2019 an­nual re­port that charts the value of Ir­ish food, drink and hor­ti­cul­tural ex­ports.

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