Bord Bia, which promotes Irish food and drink, has said Irish food, drink and horticulture exports experienced solid growth in 2004, increasing 3% to €7.17bn (US$9.38bn) despite challenges including adverse currency movements.

In addition to the appreciation of the euro against the US dollar and sterling, the Irish industry had to face a more competitive trading environment shaped by retailer consolidation, retail food price deflation and product competition, according to Bord Bia’s Food/Drink/Horticulture Export Review 04/05.

The most significant growth sectors in 2004 in terms of value of exports were prepared foods, dairy products and ingredients and beef, with 90% of beef exports destine for Europe.

“With CAP reform increasing the focus on the marketplace from 2005, the Irish food industry is facing into a defining period in its development.  This coupled with short-term adverse exchange rate movements and increased competition will pose considerable challenges,” said Aidan Cotter, chief executive of Bord Bia, adding that the industry is well positioned to maintain its current growth path in all markets in 2005.

“This will only be achieved, however, through industry focus on product innovation, research and development and strategic marketing initiatives to gain retailer acceptance and meet consumer demand, which is increasingly driven by health, convenience and value issues. Bord Bia will implement a series of initiatives and work closely with Irish food and drink companies in the coming year to exploit existing markets and to open new markets for Irish food and drinks exports,” Cotter said.