Exports of Irish food, drink and horticulture to the UK were held to a marginal 5% decline in 2020, despite a period of unprecedented change and challenge.
The figures, taken from the annual Bord Bia Export Performance and Prospects report 2020/2021, show that exports for 2020 were valued at €4.3 billion (v €4.5 billion in 2019)
The pandemic saw the largest disruption to normal market operation, including continued uncertainty around Brexit and towering pandemic challenges which saw the closure of the UK foodservice market.
Launching Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects 2020/2021 report, Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr. Charlie McConalogue, revealed that the overall volume of Irish exports fell marginally by 2% in 2020, valued at €13 billion (v €13.2 billion in 2019).
The UK remains a primary export market for Ireland. In 2020, 33% of Ireland’s total food and drink exports were destined for the UK. 33% were destined to international markets outside the UK and EU, while 34% were destined to the EU27.
The UK remains the core market for Irish horticulture and cereals exports, and exports to the UK increased 8%, valued at €207 million and accounting for over 90% of global exports which was €221 million, up 8% from 2019. The primary constituents of this export mix are mushrooms, primary cereals and amenity horticulture.
The UK represented 44% of primary Irish beef exports – extensive retail channel demand somewhat counteracted the significant decline in foodservice and held a 1% decline to €836 million. Overall, the value of primary beef exports was held to a 2% decline to €1.9 billion in 2020.
Primary pigmeat exports to the UK increased by a notable 3% to €177 million in 2020. The live export sector experienced growth in 2020, up 11% to the UK and valued at €107 million.
COVID-19 brought significant headwinds for poultry export prices and the sector was impacted by a 14% decline in exports to the UK.
The pandemic and the closure of the UK on-trade has had a significant impact on alcohol exports to the UK, down 12% in 2020, to €199 million.
Although dairy continued its global growth trajectory into 2020, exports to the UK were down 13%, to €831 million. Significant decline in UK foodservice and Brexit contingency planning were contributing factors.
“It is really positive to see that Irish exports to the UK remain strong and resilient during this period of uncertainty,” Donal Denvir, Bord Bia General Manager, Great Britain.
“Bord Bia has been working tirelessly to support food and drink suppliers in Ireland through the impact of the pandemic and Brexit.
“Notwithstanding what the future brings, the UK will remain the largest single destination for Irish food and drink exports as we continue to navigate challenges in 2021 and beyond.
“Our geographical proximity, shared language and shared cultural understanding ensure that the UK will remain a key strategic partner for Irish food and drink exports.”