Agricultural output was worth €8.7bn in 2018, with the biggest purchasers being Irish-owned food processors, with smaller proportions sold directly to households or exported, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has found.

The latest report from the CSO, titled Food and Agriculture: A Value Chain Analysis 2018 outlines that Irish food producers then export the majority of their output, selling to 159 countries around the world.

While the market for Irish food and drink is global, 44% was sold to the UK in 2018.

Household consumption of food and drink was valued at €10.5bn in 2018, of which approximately 51% was imported.

This expenditure by households included €1.2bn in product taxes and €2.8bn in wholesalers’ and retailers’ margins.

Welcoming the report ICMSA president Pat McCormack said: “We all need to move things forward on the basis of fact and a full 360 degree understanding of the enormous role that farming and food production plays in our society and economy.

“This report sets out that role in a factual and verifiable way and has to be the basis for further discussion, that’s why we urge interested parties and individuals to read it.”

British dependence

Commenting on the results CSO senior statistician Michael Connolly said the initial impact of Brexit on this value chain is very evident in the analysis.

“Although the Irish food and drink value chain is highly globalised, there is still a major concentration of activity with Britain, accounting for 23% of exports of these products in January to February 2021, down from a concentration of 33% in January to February 2018.

“Imports from Britain account for 18% of food and drink total imports in the same two-month period in 2021, down from 41% in 2018," Connolly said.

“As more data becomes available later in the year, it will become clearer as to whether this is an initial Brexit shock, or if the Irish food and drink value chain is truly moving away from its dependence on Britain.”