January 13, 2023


Dairy is the biggest Irish food export in 2022


Irish trade board Bord Bia said Ireland shipped record numbers of food and drink last year valued at EUR 16.7 billion (~US$18 billion; EUR 1 = US$1.08), 22% up year-on-year, with dairy the most exported food category, Just Food reported.


Unit price increases, according to the board, were the "most significant driver" of the value growth. Bord Bia said, the price of food and drink per unit rose by about 18.5% last year. As of October 2022, volumes have also increased, but to a lesser extent than unit price increases.


Jim O'Toole, chief executive of Bord Bia, said the figures are a testament to the resilience of one of Ireland's most significant export industries.


He said Irish food and drink businesses have had to operate in a very challenging trading environment over the past 12 months, and challenges still loom as they look to the coming year.


O'Toole said this is a profoundly challenging period for the food and drink sector, die to  rising energy costs, inflationary pressures at the farm and manufacturing level, as well as the impact of the war in Ukraine and COVID-19 on international supply chains.


Dairy exports from the nation totaled EUR 6.8 billion (~US$7.3 billion), a 33% increase from 2021. More than 130 markets around the world received more than 1.7 million tonnes of product. Volumes of milk increased overall by 5%.


The meat and livestock industry came in second, growing by 15% to reach a value of over EUR 4 billion (~US$4.3 billion), driven by exports of beef (forming two thirds of category share). Exports of beef alone were estimated to be worth EUR 2.52 billion (~US$2.7 billion). Volumes of exported beef increased by 9% from 2021.


Nearly half of Irish beef exports were to the UK market. Irish beef exports outside of Europe and the UK are reportedly down 10%. This is partly attributed to competitive pricing within the EU and an import quota filed in the US early in the year, which caused a collapse in Irish exports.


Ireland's food and beverage exports to the UK during that time were valued at an estimated EUR 5.4 billion (~US$5.8 billion). Other markets, though, are catching up to the UK.


The new trading environment with the UK and, more recently, a rapidly slowing British economy have presented significant challenges for Irish exporters, the report said. The latter is probably going to continue to be a major obstacle for Irish exporters in 2023.


Food and beverage exports to Europe increased by 29% from 2021 levels; France, Germany, and the Netherlands were mentioned as the top destinations. Food exports were estimated to be worth EUR 765 million (~US$824 million), a 20% increase from 2021. By value, the region increased its share of Irish food and drink exports by two percentage points from the previous year to 34%.


The estimated value of exports to non-European markets increased by 23% and totaled EUR 5.6 billion (~US$6 billion).


The strict COVID-19 policy and robust domestic meat production in China caused exports to stagnate, but this was offset by expansion in the Philippines, India, Malaysia, and Japan.


Exports to Asia as a whole rose by roughly 9% to EUR 1.5 billion (~US$1.6 billion). The report noted that, over the medium term, the region presents significant additional opportunities for Irish food and drink exports, supported in particular by ongoing co-funded EU campaigns for meat and dairy.


The EU will continue to be Ireland's top market for dairy exports in 2022, accounting for 34% of total exports in this sector. High demand in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium is the main driver.


In 2022, dairy exports to the UK increased by 39%, but their overall share of the sector stayed largely unchanged at 19%. Brexit-related difficulties caused the volumes for 2021 to be a little skewed, which caused some artificial growth in the figures for 2022. Before trade restrictions that took effect on January 1, 2021, a lot of dairy products were shipped into the UK in the fourth quarter of 2020.


Butter, cheese, and casein were the three most popular products in the North American market, which saw the largest volume growth at 46% year-on-year to EUR 800 million (~US$862 million). Irish dairy exports now account for 12% of all exports to North America.


-      Just Food

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