The poultry industry remains a valuable and integral part of the Irish agricultural economy and is dynamic in terms of evolving and meeting the challenges it faces.

Following a turbulent few years for this Irish sector, 2015 was the first year since 2012 that there was an increase in the number of birds processed in Ireland. This reflects a growing appetite for poultry products in the Irish market, with Kantar reporting a 5% increase in the volume of fresh poultry sold at retail level last year, compared to prior levels.

A succession of global bumper harvests over the past few years has helped boost confidence, with some producers building new houses in the last 18 months to meet this demand.

In terms of overseas trade, it is estimated that the value of Irish poultry exports increased by 3%, to reach €320m last year.

The total number of poultry birds processed for 2015 rose by 5% to 80.3m birds compared to the previous year, with the majority of this production centred around Cavan and Monaghan.

Chicken accounts for 92% of total poultry output. The key chicken processors here are Manor Farm, Western Brand and Shannonvale Foods.

Strong consumer demand on both the domestic and export market for duck, which accounts for 4% of poultry output, was reflected in an 11% increase in the number of ducks processed for 2015.

Silver Hill Farm, based in Co Monaghan, is the main processor of duck, with exports now accounting for over 80% of the company’s turnover. Between hens and turkey, they accounted for 3% and 1% of birds slaughtered last year respectively.

In addition, the egg category has experienced strong growth over the past few seasons on the back of the versatility and convenience they offer consumers. According to Kantar Worldpanel, sales of eggs are on the rise, with Irish consumers spending €103m each year.

To accommodate this growth in consumption, Ireland is now producing 551 million eggs annually. There are almost 240 egg producers in Ireland, while the main egg packers are Greenfields and Nestbox, both based in Monaghan along with Riverview Eggs from Cork.

If you are interested in a career in the agri-industry, come along to the Irish Farmers Journal and open eir Agri Careers Fair, which takes place in the RDS on 3 March 2016. For more information, click here.