Farming sector organisations have responded to Bord Bia’s reporting of a record-breaking €16.7bn in agri-food exports over 2022 as highlighting the contribution of agriculture to the rural economy.

They warned that maintaining the sector’s output is essential to continuing this contribution.

Farm leaders also pointed to export value growth of 22% on 2021’s figures as being evidence of farmers’ resilience to thrive despite significant economic challenges, including the impact of inflation on consumers, high input costs and global uncertainty posed by the war in Ukraine.

Another €2m in non-edible farm sector exports, such as feed and forestry goods, was also achieved, which is not reflected in Bord Bia’s €16.7bn value.


Output and exports are directly correlated, according to the IFA.

The IFA was among the groups suggesting that the rise in agri-food export value in 2022 underscores the importance of farming to the rural economy.

Its president, Tim Cullinan, stated that this export sum is directly correlated with farm output.

“€16.7bn is the highest figure ever recorded for our exports. What’s significant is the very important economic footprint this creates across the country,” Cullinan said.

“Unlike some sectors, the agri-food sector is embedded in every region and the return from exports generates activity in literally every rural parish.”

Cullinan commented that the 22% rise in export value showed the sector’s strength to grow despite the challenges posed by high farm input costs and trade disturbances.

“Economist Ciaran Fitzgerald told our Farming and Climate Summit in Thomond Park yesterday that every 1% drop in output would cost the economy €240m,” he continued.

“If we want to build our export profile, we cannot countenance a drop in output.”

UK market

The farm leader said that the export figures highlight the growing importance of markets outside of the UK to the sector, although he recognised that it remains a key market for food goods.

At Bord Bia’s report launch, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said the UK was the destination for 37% of Irish agri-food exports in 2016, but that this fell to 32% last year.


The ICMSA suggested that attempts are being made to cut the output needed for exports. \ Donal O' Leary

The welcoming of the record export figures is at odds with the ever-increasing pressure on farm output, according to Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association president Pat McCormack.

The dairy group president claimed it was “nearly amusing” for policymakers to take responsibility for the export performance while “preparing the next round of curbs and regulations, all designed to restrict Ireland’s farmers”.

“This cheering of the food exports is at stark variance with their dismantling of the food-producing farm sector,” he said.


Farming exports allow for "real money" to flow into rural Ireland, the ICSA said. / Philip Doyle

The Irish Cattle and Sheep farmers’ Association pointed out that the economic value of agri-food exports represents a substantial monetary contribution to rural areas.

“It is critical to understand that, unlike foreign direct investment, the €18.7bn of agri-food exports, delivers real money spread relatively equally across every county in Ireland and this money is retained in the Irish economy,” its president Dermot Kelleher said.

Kelleher remarked that the value growth in exports should be remembered, rather than just the rise in volume alone.

“The interesting point is that much of this increase in value has been through better product price. This is a key lesson – farmers are only producing what consumers across Europe and further afield want to buy,” he went on.

“It also demonstrates that food security is indeed an issue as other countries are encountering declining production of all types of food.”

The drystock group commented on the gap in dairy and beef growth over the last year.

“On a sectoral level, dairy exports increased 33%, without an increase in volume. By comparison, the beef and sheep sectors worked a lot harder to get lower increases.

“Beef exports were up 18% in value on the back of a 9% increase in volume and sheep exports were up 17% on the back of a 10% increase in volume.”

He noted that the meat sector is also a contributor to the €3bn taken in through the prepared consumer foods sector.

Meat Industry Ireland

The meat industry pointed to the resilience of the sector to thrive despite global disturbances. / Donal O'Leary

Director of Meat Industry Ireland Dale Crammond responded similarly by commenting on the impact that the €4bn meat and livestock sectors have on rural livelihoods.

This was an increase of 15% on 2021’s export value, with beef exports rising by 9% last year in volume terms.

Crammond stated that the processors and exporters’ investments were paying off for the agri-food industry.

“The meat and livestock sector has shown itself once again to be one of the most resilient indigenous industries which is the backbone of the rural economy as the second-largest category within Ireland’s food and drink exports,” the MII chief said.

“Meat producers contributed to a record-breaking 22% increase in 2022, against a backdrop of inflationary pressures and increased production costs.

The performance of Irish meat exporters in such circumstances is a testament to years of significant investment to ensure Ireland can compete on a European and global scale, delivering a high-quality, safe and sustainable meat offering to a diverse range of markets and channels.”

The industry group pointed to sustainability obligations, Irish access to global markets and economic uncertainty as being factors likely to influence agri-food trade with overseas partners over the coming year.