Blog: Dean BestIrish exporters are smiling

Dean Best | 18 January 2012

The spike in commodity prices helped push Irish food and drink exports to a record level in 2011. Ireland's exporters may not enjoy quite the same benefit in 2012 but confidence about Irish prospects overseas is on the rise.

Data issued by Bord Bia, the agency that promotes Irish food and drink exports overseas, has shown the the value of the industry's shipments grew to an "all-time high" of EUR8.85bn (US$11.36bn) in 2011. 

Exports were boosted by global prices for major commodities in 2011, Bord Bia said, although it pointed out that volume growth accounted for 25% of the growth in Ireland's food and drink exports.

Nonetheless, Bord Bia did indicate that exporters may not get the same helping hand from commodity prices this year. It said the prospects for Ireland's food and drink exports in 2012 were "positive" but said lower volume in some sectors and "some further softening in global commodity prices" are likely to lead to "more limited growth potential" this year.

However, the agency said its annual survey of Ireland's food and drink exporters suggested "increased optimism" about this year, compared to how they felt 12 months ago about 2011.

"In total, 85% of exporters viewed the prospects for their business in 2012 as good or very good. This compares to 70% in 2010," Bord Bia said. "Almost two thirds of respondents rated their business prospects as much improved/improved compared to a year earlier. In terms of sales prospects, 69% of respondents, compared to 64% in 2010, stated that they had increased their sales forecasts for the year ahead."

Just before Christmas, the UK's food and soft drink sectors set a goal of growing by 20% by 2020 and said exports would play a key role in achieving that target.

However, industry association The Food and Drink Federation did indicate that there was evidence that UK exporters were losing sales to rival countries and insisted more need to be done to regain ground.

Later this month, a UK food and drink export forum, co-chaired by industry and government, will launch an "export action plan". Manufacturers on both sides of the Irish Sea will be keen to hear what the UK government and industry plans to do to grab share of export markets, vital to revitalising growth in both economies.


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