Bord Bia will reveal that exports of Irish food and drink were down 2% in 2020 to €13bn at the launch of its Performance and Prospects report by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue this morning.

The industry maintained production in 2020, despite the disruption caused by the global pandemic for farmers, factories and routes to market.


Dairy exports increased by 3% on 2019 levels to €5.2bn.

Irish dairy exports are spread across the globe, with almost half (47%) to outside the UK and EU. Butter and cheese are the main categories, accounting for €961m each.

Cheese (cheddar) is the sector of Irish dairy that remains most dependent on the UK, with sales of €381m to that market.

Butter exports to the US increased by 9% to €210m, despite the introduction of a 25% tariff at the end of 2019 in the Boeing-Airbus dispute between the US and EU.


Meat exports accounted for €3.4bn of the total, with beef the largest category at €1.9m.

The UK remains the main market, though its share of Irish beef exports was down slightly to 44%. Exports to beyond the EU and UK increased to 11% of the total, with gains in the US, Canada, Philippines and Japan.

China would have been a very significant market but unfortunately exports were suspended in May 2020 because of a BSE case and have not yet resumed.

Sheep, pigs and poultry

Sheepmeat had a strong year, with export values up 12% to €356m.

Less supplies from the UK and New Zealand for EU markets meant a consistent demand for Irish exports throughout 2020 and the indications are that this will continue into 2021.

There was also a strong performance from the pigmeat exports, up 14% to €586m in 2020.

Strong import demand from China, where African swine fever has decimated the pig population, meant that 41% of all Irish pigmeat exports went to Asia in 2020, with Japan and Vietnam the most important markets after China.

Poultry meat sales were back 2% to €152m, while horticulture and cereal exports increased by 8% to €221m, with mushrooms the main category, accounting for €115m of these exports, an increase of 14% on 2019.