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HomeFarming News2021 food and drink exports reach record €13.5bn
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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2021 food and drink exports reach record €13.5bn

The value of Ireland’s food, drink and horticulture exports increased by 4% to a record €13.5 billion in 2021, despite Covid-19’s and Brexit’s impact on trading.

That is according to new data from the Export Performance and Prospects 2021/2022, which Bord Bia published this morning (Wednesday, January 12th, 2022).

The report states that Ireland exported the equivalent of almost €37 million worth of food and drink every day last year to customers in more than 180 countries worldwide.

Ireland exports about 90% of its food and drink production. The performance of the export sector was “robust” in 2021, given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the fact that the UK is now operating outside of the EU Customs Union.

The value of Irish food and drink exports was 2% higher than pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019.

According to the report, the dairy sector was worth more than €5 billion last year and remained the “largest” element within Irish food and drink exports.

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Meat and livestock, which generated over €3.5 billion in export sales, followed and prepared consumer foods, which was worth more than €2.5 billion.

The state agency also published ambitious new three-year targets to further contribute to the growth in the value-chain of Irish food and drink exports as part of the launch of its new ten-year statement of strategy.

The plan envisages a significant expansion in the value growth of Irish food and drinks exports during the period.

It also includes a:

  • 11% increase in the value of dairy, meat, and livestock exports;
  • 14% jump in prepared consumer food exports.

Sustainability is a “core” theme within the new strategy, as it “strengthens” its supports and standards to reflect the “high level of ambition” meeting both environmental challenges and market demands require.

Bord Bia Chief Executive Tara McCarthy said the industry’s performance had been “extraordinary”:

“The sector’s ability to beat its 2019 performance and deliver a record year for Irish exports is truly impressive. Irish ish 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 and indeed, almost every parish in the country.”

“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.”

She stated that Bord Bia would continue to work with the Irish food industry and its customers this year.

She added that sustainability would continue to be a key focus for Bord Bia both this year and in the years ahead.

It aims to work in partnership with the industry to meet the Irish government’s carbon reduction targets and sustainability challenges.

McCarthy added that Government’s Food Vision 2030 strategy outlines the central role that Origin Green will play in supporting Ireland’s food sector in achieving Ireland’s environmental and sustainability goals.

“We look forward to helping Irish businesses to embrace sustainability further and ensure that Ireland continues to be acknowledged as a leader in sustainable food production.”

Total agri-food exports of €15.2 billion

Meanwhile, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, said Ireland’s “world-class and globally-renowned” food and drink sector continues to be one of the economy’s “brightest shining lights”.

Given the difficult external factors, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, he said that this was an “outstanding” export performance by the food and drink sector.

“I pay tribute to our farmers, our fishers, and our food producers, as well as the processing and marketing sectors who drove this incredible performance.”

The DAFM estimates total agri-food exports, including non-edible products not included in Bord Bia’s report, to be worth €15.2 billion in 2021, compared to €14.3 billion the previous year.

He stated that the DAFM and Bord Bia will support primary food and drink producers and manufacturers as they face the challenges of the year ahead and seek to enhance the value of Irish exports further.


The Minister of State with special responsibility for Market Development, Martin Heydon, said:

“We are focused on nurturing the established markets close to home while simultaneously identifying and investing in high potential emerging markets.”

“In that context, I look forward to again working closely with Bord Bia on a targeted series of trade missions and market development and promotion events to our key markets during the next 12 months.”

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