The Government is conscious of the vital role played by the agrifood sector in sustaining the rural economy and rural communities across Ireland. There is no doubt that the agrifood sector faces considerable challenges arising from Brexit. The Government is doing everything it can, however, to ameliorate the potential impacts. In addition to the range of measures I have deployed over the last three budgets, including low-cost loan schemes and supports for product and market diversification, I and my officials have been in ongoing discussions with the European Commission in relation to the potential supports that may be required for the agrifood sector in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Most recently, I met with Commissioner Hogan in the margins of last month's Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels to discuss the potential impact a no-deal Brexit could have on the agrifood sector and the Commission's readiness to deploy support measures to help mitigate the potential impacts on farmers, fishermen and businesses in the sector. Contacts are ongoing in this regard.
Irish agrifood exports have proven their ability to compete on European Union and international markets, with the value of total agrifood exports having increased by 78% in value between 2009 and 2018, from €7.8 billion to €13.9 billion according to the Central Statistics Office. This growth has been driven by the strong reputation Irish product has in meeting the highest standards of food safety and animal welfare, quality and nutrition. Third country markets also form an increasing proportion of total agrifood exports. In 2018, approximately 27% of our agrifood exports were to non-EU markets. This represents a marked increase from 2009, when they accounted for 20% of the value of exports. Half of our export growth since 2010 has come from markets outside Europe, led by a sixfold increase in exports to China, a doubling to the rest of Asia and North America and a rise of 40% in trade to the Middle East and Africa.
Developing new markets and growing existing markets, based on market insights, is one of the five themes of Food Wise 2025, the ten-year strategy for the agrifood sector. Market development and diversification is also a key response to the challenges which Brexit poses for the agrifood, in particular, the beef sector. In April 2017, I launched a seven-point action plan on market access, which is being implemented through a variety of actions. These include a market prioritisation exercise for meat, dairy, prepared consumer foods, beverages and seafood, as well as subsequent detailed studies carried out by Bord Bia on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. A market access web portal was also launched in May 2018. It is available on the Department's website and provides a wide range of valuable information to exporters. In 2018 a number of additional markets were opened by the Department, including the Chinese beef market, following years of sustained effort. There has also been an enhanced programme of Government agrifood trade missions to key new markets.
In respect of meat, the market prioritisation exercise identified the top five countries selected as priority markets as Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea and Vietnam. A very similar list of countries emerged in respect of dairy but with the inclusion of Indonesia instead of Mexico.
New priority markets have also been identified for beverages, prepared consumer foods and seafood. China was not considered for the deep dive analysis as it was believed that a very significant level of market intelligence and information on the market was already available. Nonetheless it remains a priority market for the meat and dairy sectors in particular.
Along with beef, seafood is another sector which is hugely exposed to the potential consequences of Brexit both in terms of access to resources and to destination markets. My Department has provided an additional €2 million in funding in 2019, matching what was received in 2018 under the European maritime fisheries fund operational programme. The actions funded have already helped to inform how we target markets abroad.
Live exports are part of the overall export dynamic and provide a critically important alternative market for Irish farmers. In 2018, the volume of live exports increased by some 30%. Just last month, I visited Turkey to make it clear that Ireland can continue to supply quality livestock for the Turkish market.
Trade missions play an important role in market development and I have been very active on this front in recent years as we strive to gain, and then develop, a presence in as many global markets as possible. Trade missions have an important role and will become even more important for market development, particularly post Brexit. I have led very successful missions to the Gulf region, the United States, Mexico, Japan and Korea in 2017, and to the US, Canada, China, Indonesia and Malaysia in 2018. These missions included participants from across the agrifood sector and featured extensive trade contacts as well as high-level political discussions. Taking all of this into account, this year in addition to the trade mission I already led to Turkey, I will lead trade missions to China in May, Japan and South Korea in June and Algeria and Egypt in November
My Department currently has agriculture attachés based in London, Brussels, Paris, Rome, Geneva, Washington, Beijing and Abu Dhabi. These officers play a significant role in developing our relationships with governments and official agencies in these countries. Those placed in countries outside of the EU are essential in acquiring key intelligence on agrifood issues and progressing through the various systems to achieve market access for a variety of agrifood products. In the context of the Global Ireland 2025 initiative we are creating four new agriculture attaché positions in Berlin, Tokyo, Seoul and Mexico city.
The decision to place an attaché in Berlin is informed by the need to diversify our export markets from the UK. Berlin will provide a basis to support further trade development work not only in Germany, but also in eastern Europe. The positions in Tokyo, Seoul and Mexico city are to assist in the process of gaining access for Irish agriculture products given that free trade agreements have recently been agreed by Japan, Korea and Mexico with the European Union. They also reflect the outcome of Bord Bia’s market prioritisation report, which has identified these countries among the priority markets for the Irish agrifood and fisheries sectors over the coming years.
In addition to establishing attaché posts in a number of new locations, we have also stated our intention to take on local hires in certain locations in order to provide, for example, local knowledge and specialist expertise in supporting our market access and trade development work. This is all part of our work in market diversification in line with the Food Wise strategy and our seven-point market access plan announced in the wake of the Brexit decision.