Bord Bia’s work is critical to the success of the growth of our food and drinks exports. The agrifood sector accounted for more than 11% of total goods exports from Ireland last year and, since 2009, agrifood exports have increased in value by 74%, from €7.8 billion to €13.6 billion last year. Bord Bia has played a vital role in that export success by enhancing and promoting our focus on quality, innovation and sustainability. The development of the Origin Green programme, providing proof of the sector’s sustainability credentials, has played an important part.
Bord Bia works closely with my Department to prioritise and develop new markets, building on its significant investment in consumer and retail insights. As an agency, Bord Bia has played a key role in our Brexit response, facilitating conversations at the highest level with UK retail chief executive officers and ensuring that our ongoing commitment to the UK market is fully understood. In that context, I will meet many of our retail partners in London later this evening. We have no intention of stepping back from the UK market. On the contrary, we will redouble our efforts to build on our consumer reputation and strong relationships to maximise growth and supply high-quality and innovative products to our neighbouring island.
Bord Bia’s Brexit barometer has been used to identify evolving client priorities and concerns and further inform Bord Bia’s Brexit programmes and supports. As a result of the many findings from the two exercises it carried out in 2017 and 2018, Bord Bia has launched a series of Brexit support programmes focused on supply chains and customs requirements regarding trade and currency risk for the industry, as well as a customer engagement plan to communicate to key UK stakeholders the preparedness of Irish food and drinks suppliers.
In September 2017, I announced further funding of €6.745 million for Bord Bia to undertake a programme of additional activities, based on Brexit barometer analysis, to support the food and drink sectors in addressing the market challenges relating to Brexit. The funding was additional to the €1.6 million I provided to Bord Bia in autumn 2016 for grants to assist food companies highly dependent on the UK market and an additional €2 million allocated to Bord Bia as part of its 2017 grant for increased expenditure on programmes. In the 2019 Estimates, I provided a further allocation of €5.3 million to Bord Bia, bringing its total grant-in-aid to €46.6 million for 2019. This compares with a grant of €28.9 million in 2014 and represents a 60% increase in funding for marketing and promotion of our food offering over five years.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
This year Bord Bia received approval to recruit 32 additional members of staff as part of the wider Brexit response. A recruitment campaign commenced in April 2018, and to date 24 positions have been filled. Recruitment is ongoing for the balance and it is hoped that these additional staff will be fully in place by 2019. At least ten of these positions will be based abroad. This will bring Bord Bia’s headcount from 93 in 2008 to a maximum of 147 by the end of December 2018, amounting to a 63% increase over ten years.