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Irish horticulture, food and drink exports reach €16.3B in 2023

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Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects report 2023/24 shows a 6% decline in Ireland's horticulture exports to €295 million



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11 January 2024

The value of Ireland’s food, drink and horticulture exports were almost €16.3 billion in 2023, according to Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects report 2023/24, which was launched by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, TD.

In 2023, the horticulture sector of Ireland’s agricultural exports faced challenges, leading to a 6% decline in value to €295 million. Factors such as market conditions, supply chain challenges, and evolving consumer preferences contributed to this decrease. Despite these challenges, the horticulture industry remains a crucial component of Ireland’s agricultural landscape.

On the food front, several key trends emerged. The dairy sector, constituting nearly 40% of overall Irish food and drink exports, experienced an 8% decrease in export values to €6.3 billion. This decline was primarily driven by lower values in butter and casein exports, which were partially offset by increases in the value of cheese, specialist nutritional powders, yoghurt, and whole milk powder.

The meat and livestock sector maintained stability with exports valued at €4.2 billion. While beef, poultry, and live exports experienced increases, lower sheep meat and pig meat exports balanced the overall sector performance. The prepared consumer foods (PCF) sector had a strong year in value terms, with sales increasing by 7% to €3.1 billion. This growth was fueled by increased exports of meal solutions, bakery products, and soft drinks and juices.

In the beverage sector, the value of drink exports declined by 8% to €1.8 billion, primarily due to short-term market factors in the North American spirits sector. However, beer and cider exports experienced an 11% increase, providing a positive aspect within the broader beverage category.

Exporters in the industry express optimism for 2024, with 73% anticipating market growth, particularly in Europe and the US. The UK remains the largest single destination for Irish food and drink exports, valued at €5.6 billion. 

Jim O’Toole, chief executive, Bord Bia, said:  “The Irish food, drink, and horticulture industry had a very solid performance last year, given the very challenging market conditions. Notwithstanding these challenges, based on our recent Exporter Sentiment study, the majority (73%) of Irish food and drink exporters remain optimistic about expected market growth in 2024. Companies were most positive about the potential for export growth to Europe and the US (68%), followed by the UK (63%).

“However, despite the positive outlook, more than half (53%) of Irish food and drink companies believe their competitiveness has been eroded over the past 12 months, with energy prices, inflation and labour costs having the biggest impact. Looking ahead, market volatility and inflation, although slowly easing, will continue to be two key factors for this year, while input and labour costs remain a risk to competitiveness. As such, the market for Irish food, drink and horticulture exports will remain challenged this year.”

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