Market diversification work continues with the industry in order to increase the sector’s global footprint across the world, as well as helping to reduce the sector's exposure to the UK market. Against the backdrop of EU-agreed trade deals such as those completed with Canada, Japan and Mexico, my Department continues to prioritise efforts to gain access to new third country markets and, equally importantly, to deepen existing markets for Irish dairy products.
In 2018 my Department continued to open new markets and deepen trade within existing markets for Irish agri-food exporters, the highlight of which was the decision of the Chinese authorities to open their market to Irish beef imports by listing a number of approved Irish beef establishments. Other notable achievements were agreements with Qatar and Kuwait which allowed for the importation of Irish beef, sheepmeat and poultry to their markets.
We have also had success with exports to emerging markets. The value of exports to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Central/South America stood at almost €2.8 billion in 2017. The value of trade to these markets increased by 159% since 2009. These markets now account for over 20% of total agri-food exports. Growth to emerging markets has been led by Asia, with exports of €1.6 billion in 2017, of which just under €1 billion went to China. Exports to other Asian markets grew by 85% since 2012 to €659 million in 2017. Trade to Africa has also grown to €606 million, while exports to the Middle East have also grown significantly, to reach €370 million.
The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports is of course an ongoing and central component of the strategic development of the agri-food sector, as evidenced by its placement right at the centre of Food Wise 2025, the industry’s strategy for development over the coming decade. Food Wise 2025 outlines the huge potential for growth in agri-food exports to new and emerging markets, particularly in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Gulf region. This is where our efforts will be focused for the foreseeable future, particularly given the need to diversify our markets and to reduce our reliance on traditional destinations such as the UK.
My Department will continue to seek out and identify new markets, and I am ready to respond as appropriate to other opportunities that may arise.