IRISH food and drink was a major contributor to the economy's strong export performance in 2010, with export sales expanding by 11 per cent to reach €7.9 billion, according to Bord Bia.
The increase, amounting to just over €800 million, was supported by a more stable consumer environment, reduced exchange rate pressures, and improved relative competitiveness. It was also boosted by rising global prices for most agricultural commodities.
The expansion in food and drink exports outpaced the increase in total merchandise exports and is estimated to have accounted for almost one-third of total growth during the first nine months of 2010.
"The strength of the industry's export performance is all the more commendable for the fact that it has been achieved in what remains a highly competitive marketing environment" according to Dan Browne, Chairman of Bord Bia.
"All major categories recorded increases, led by dairy, which jumped by more than €300 million or 17 per cent. Meat and livestock exports were almost €200 million higher while beverage and prepared food exports recorded growth of €130 million and €100 million respectively."
"The success of the industry in growing its penetration of Continental EU markets is also to be welcomed", according to Mr.Browne, "with exports to the mainly eurozone markets increasing by 14 per cent." Continental EU markets now account for 34 per cent of the industry's total exports of food and drink.
The economy continues to dominate consumer thinking and behaviour throughout many key European markets, where more consumers believe their purchasing power will decrease than increase over the coming two years.
The results of the fourth wave of Bord Bia's Feeling the Pinch survey, completed in late 2010, also shows a high degree of uncertainty remains among Irish and British consumers. Indeed, the only certainty that appears to be emerging is that significant change is unlikely to materialise in 2011 and as the search for value continues, consumers are embracing the 'new normal'.
Looking ahead to 2011 the prospects for Irish food and drink exports remain positive, helped by strong global demand for commodity products and a relatively tight supply situation in a number of key product categories.
"In a year in which the world's population will reach seven billion, growth in global demand is set to underpin food markets well into the future, albeit with some volatility to be expected," according to Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive of Bord Bia.
He added, "the challenge for the Irish food and drink industry is to maintain its current momentum, particularly in the areas of cost competitiveness, innovation and marketing.
"Implementation of the recommendations of Food Harvest 2020* (incorporating Bord Bia's Pathways for Growth), which reflect a consensus industry view for supporting growth, will be critical to sustaining this momentum and delivering on its ambitious targets in the decade ahead," he said.