During the global pandemic, the agri-food sector showed “tremendous resilience” and supported a “balanced regional economy”, according to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.

Minister McConalogue was speaking on Thursday as he launched the Department of Agriculture’s Annual Review and Outlook report for 2021.

He said the agri-food sector employed 163,600 people or 7.1% of total employment in 2020, while outside of Dublin and the mid-east region, the sector provided between 10% and 14% of all jobs.

Income increase

Despite the disruption in the early phase of the pandemic, average family farm income in 2020 increased by 9% to €25,663.

This figure equates to a weekly family farm income of €494, only 58% of the national weekly wage of €847 across all sectors at the end of 2020, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The 9% increase in family farm income came at a time when “our farmers, fishers and food producers as well as processors and exporters faced into this once-in-a-lifetime situation [the Covid-19 pandemic] with remarkable resilience,” according to Minister McConalogue.


The Department found that total agri-food exports exceeded €14bn for the second year in a row in 2020.

The sector accounted for over 9% of total exports in value terms (but a much higher proportion, estimated close to 40%, of exports by Irish-owned enterprises).

At over €5bn, dairy products were the largest agri-food export, followed by beef at €2.3bn, other meats at €1.5bn and beverages also at €1.5 bn.

Produce was exported to over 180 markets worldwide with the UK remaining the country’s largest trading partner, taking 37% of all food and drink exports.

Commenting on the report, Minister McConalogue said: "I think that the last year has really underlined the vital contribution which farmers and fishers make, in producing food, in protecting our natural environment and landscapes, and in contributing to their local economy and community.”

“I am confident that the data and information included in this [report] will inform policy analysis and debate over the next year. This is as we look to the continued economic, environmental and social sustainability of the agri-food sector and particularly as we begin the implementation process for Food Vision 2030”.