Posted on 26 September 2011.
Irish food and drink exports in 2011 are expected to reach a record high of €8.9 billion, an increase of more than 12%, or almost €1 billion, on 2010 levels. This follows growth of €700 million in 2010 leaving Ireland’s food exports in 2011 some 25% ahead of 2009 levels. Meanwhile, against a backdrop of strong global demand and high prices, eight out of ten exporters surveyed by Bord Bia rate their prospects as improved or very improved compared with this time last year.
All major categories are expected to show growth this year, led by dairy and meat, which combined account for more than 60% of Ireland’s total food and drink exports. Strong global prices are driving export growth, with the FAO food price index 26% ahead of this time last year, however increased volumes of dairy products, pigmeat, whiskey, cider, confectionery, sauces/soups and mushrooms are also boosting revenues. It is estimated volume growth across these categories will account for up to 30% of the total.
“As world supplies struggle to keep pace with the growth in global demand, the outlook for food exporters for the remainder of the year and into 2012 remains positive,” points out Aidan Cotter, chief executive of Bord Bia. “The latest surge in world food prices is further evidence that the era of cheap food is at an end, yet while forecasts point to a longer term upward trend, the conditions for volatility in prices remain in the form of weather-related events, fluctuating stock levels, exchange rates and market speculation.”
Figures for the first half of 2011 show some change in the market distribution of Irish food and drink exports. The UK remains the principal export destination, although its share of total exports fell from 44% to just over 40% compared to the same period last year. This reflects the fact that much of the growth in dairy and to a lesser extent prepared foods, beverages and beef has occurred outside of the UK market.
The proportion of exports going to other European markets jumped by two percentage points to 35% for the period as stronger dairy, beef, beverage and prepared food exports boosted trade. International markets accounted for 25%, driven in particular by stronger dairy exports.
While the consumer search for value continues apace, the initial signs of rising consumer prices have emerged acrossEuropeduring 2011. In July 2011, the consumer food price index for the euro area was almost 3% ahead of a year earlier while UK prices were 6% higher than a year earlier.
The ongoing volatility in exchange rates presents a challenge for Irish exporters. Current exchange rates leave the euro 9% stronger against the US dollar and 5% stronger against sterling than September 2010.
The Irish manufacturing sector has improved its competitiveness over recent years with Ireland’s Competitiveness Scorecard for 2011 published by Forfas showing a more productive and cost competitive industry. During the period April 2008 to February 2011, Ireland’s harmonised competitiveness index depreciated by more than 12% in real terms, which is helping the sector’s competitiveness on export markets.