Listen: Volume up but value down for 2018 agri-food exports
Bord Bia launched its annual ‘Export Performance and Prospects’ report on Wednesday 9 January.

The total estimated value of food and drink exports from Ireland in 2018 is €12.11bn, down from €12.4bn the previous year.

However, the value of exports are still up €4.7bn since 2010, an increase of 64% in eight years. Irish food and drink were exported to over 180 countries in 2018, with increased output.

The Bord Bia ‘Export and Performance Prospects’ report states that volume growth in many categories was counteracted by global price volatility. Irish food and drink exports were 50,000 tonnes higher in 2018 than 2017.

The strongest performer in terms of export growth was the dairy sector, with export volumes up 5%. The value of Ireland’s dairy exports in 2018 was €4bn. Irish butter exports exceeded €1bn for the first time, performing well in the US and Europe.

Half of Ireland’s cheese exports still went to the UK, but in 2018 22% of cheese exports went outside the UK and continental Europe. This figure is up from 17% in 2017. The value of cheese exports to Asia and North America was €75m.

The value of meat and livestock exports from Ireland in 2018 was just under €4bn. Beef production increased by 3%, while prices tightened, on average, by 1.8% for exporters. Over 1,000 tonnes of beef went to China after the market opened up in April.

Sheepmeat export values are up 15% to €315m, according to the Bord Bia figures. The export value of Irish pigmeat declined 6% to €666m due to pressure on prices. Meanwhile, poultry exports rose 8% in 2018 to €316m.

Bord Bia says that the Irish poultry industry is set to produce 100 million birds for the first time in 2019.

Exports of live animals were valued at €161m in 2018, a decline from €175m in the previous year.

The agri-food sector's dependence on the UK market for exports grew in 2018. The UK accounted for €4.5bn or 36% of all agri-food exports last year.

Exports to other EU states exceeded €4bn for the second year running. In 2018, €3.45bn Irish agri-food exports went outside the EU. This accounts for 29% of Ireland’s total export value and is up from €1.8bn in 2010. However, it is down from 32% in 2017.

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How did Irish agri-food exports do in 2018?

Beef and dairy bosses demand Brexit action from Creed
Imposing tariffs on exports would "cripple trade", meat and dairy factory representatives have warned.

Beef and dairy bosses braced for a hard Brexit have handed a list of demands to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

With 65 days remaining to salvage a Brexit deal, the nightmare scenario of a no-deal is becoming ever more likely.

A delegation including Aurivo’s Aaron Forde, ABP’s Martin Kane, Larry Murrin of Dawn Farms Foods, Cormac Healy of Meat Industry Ireland and Conor Mulvihill of Dairy Industry Ireland, met with Minister Creed on Tuesday.

Dairy co-ops want dual British-Irish status for Northern Ireland milk, export refunds and other trade supports. They called for a freeze on tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit and direct income aid for farmers.

Meat factory representatives warned that if tariffs are imposed on exports to the UK “it would cripple trade”, with the additional danger of sterling devaluation in a no-deal outcome.

They called for extra resources to ensure speedy border checks and increased ferry capacity and routes for direct shipping to the continent.

While European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan reassured farmers Brussels is poised to swoop to their aid, a Commission spokesman confirmed a hard border is inevitable unless the British reach an agreement with the EU or delay their withdrawal.

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No-deal Brexit to add 21c/l in cheddar processing costs

EU 'stands ready' to support farmers - Hogan
European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has assured farmers that Europe is planning for all possible outcomes from Brexit negotiations.

European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan has moved to reassure farmers that the EU stands ready to intervene in markets to protect prices in the event of a hard Brexit.

“We have to prepare for the worst. The European Union stands ready to help Irish and EU farmers in the event of a hard Brexit,” Commissioner Hogan said, addressing a crowd of more than 250 farmers at the Kilkenny IFA annual dinner dance on Saturday night.

“We have the tools ready to intervene, including Aid to Private Storage, intervention and a revision of state aid rules,” he added.

Slow

His words will help give farmers comfort that, while Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has been slow to commit to supports, plans for a safety net at EU level are well advanced.

Hogan reassured farmers that the EU is ready for all scenarios, but warned that the Government must also be ready and ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure products can continue to move through ports.

Gloomy

While a no-deal Brexit paints a gloomy picture, vice president of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness is reminding farmers that it could be avoided if a deal is reached between the EU and UK. But, she says, plans are being put in place to deal with a no-deal scenario.

“There are deep concerns about the consequences,” McGuinness told the Irish Farmers Journal.

“We will need to be looking at how you are going to support a vulnerable sector, that will call for money.

"All of those things will have to be discussed in the short period of time before the United Kingdom leaves.”

Lamb prices rocketing ahead
The trade for all types of lamb is strong currently boosting farmers' confidence in the sector.

Factory agents are scouring the country in the hunt for slaughter-fit lambs.

Prices have hardened significantly over the past number of weeks.

Farmers are securing €5.25/kg to €5.30/kg, with specialised feeders negotiating in excess of €5.40/kg for lambs.

The mart trade is booming for all types of lambs currently.

Fleshed factory-fit lambs are selling over €120/head, with €125/head common for lambs weighing over 50kg.

The store lamb trade is on fire, with prices of €2.50/kg to €2.80/kg and higher being recognised for hill-bred lambs.