Gaining access to new markets and opening new trading opportunities for Irish exports while simultaneously strengthening established export markets has been and remains integral to my Department’s strategic approach to the development of the agri-food sector.
According to the latest figures from the CSO, exports of agri-food products from Ireland to the 26 EU countries has grown by 26% in value in recent years, from €3.8 billion in 2016 to €4.75 billion in 2019. Final year-end figures for 2020 will be available in mid February. I consider that there is significant room for further growth in Irish agri-food products to EU markets. While Europe's overall food demand is not forecast to increasing dramatically, due to stable or falling populations, these are stable, affluent markets which are well placed to appreciate our premium quality food and drink offering.
Between 2016 and 2019, Irish agri-exports to third country markets (those outside of the EU and the UK) increased by nearly €700 million to a value of €4.3 billion. In that same period, the value of Irish meat exports to third country markets grew by nearly 50% to a value of €575 million. The growth of exports to third countries has occurred in concert with my Department’s market diversification efforts which have been considerably increased since the Brexit vote in 2016. Market access or enhanced access for various products has been achieved in a variety of key markets including China, USA, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Ukraine.
Ministerial-led trade missions are an important feature of the development and diversification strategy for the agri-food sector. As announced recently, our trade mission agenda for 2021 is planned to include the following priority markets:
- In Asia - China, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam
- In North America – the United States of America and Mexico
- key European destinations such as Italy and the UK
- and an exploration of markets in West Africa.
The format of each mission will be adapted to suit the prevailing Covid conditions, but I am hopeful that it will include in-person trade missions.
Our enhanced focus on market development is a key part of my Department’s response to the twin challenges of the economic impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.