In 2017, Ireland exported dairy products, including dairy powders to 147 countries totalling over €4.6 billion worth of produce, an increase of over 17% compared to 2016, representing high-quality value-added produce.
Irish dairy products have a highly rated and hard earned reputation in terms of quality, safety and sustainability, and this gives them a competitive edge in markets over the world.
The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish dairy exports is of course an ongoing and central component of the strategic development of the dairy sector, as evidenced by the objectives set out for the industry in Food Wise 2025, the industry’s strategy for development over the coming years. Food Wise 2025 outlines the huge potential for growth in dairy 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.
The long-term fundamentals of the global dairy market are strong, with growing global demand projected from fast developing countries with increasing middle classes and more westernised diets. Whilst significant challenges have continued throughout recent years, in particular price volatility, there is confidence that the Irish and EU dairy sector is well placed to gain from the opportunity presented by expanding global demand.
Other factors impacting on the future of dairy farming include evolving consumer demands. As consumers evolve from generation to generation so too do their demands in terms of the standards they require from their food producers.
Whilst hugely important, these demand led factors will not of themselves underpin the success of our efforts if we are not best in class in terms of the quality of the products that we supply. Both business and retail customers for Irish dairy products will continue to demand that the Irish dairy industry operates to the highest standards of food safety, environmental sustainability and animal welfare. In addition to the high standards by which Irish dairy farmers operate, we will need to credibly verify these standards to the satisfaction of our international customers. Programmes such as Origin Green and the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme, the Dairy Sustainability Ireland Initiative as well as my own Department's initiatives such as GLAS, TAMS and the KT programme will allow farmers to continue to demonstrate the overall sustainability of Irish dairy products.
My Department and I, in conjunction with other stakeholders, including the Irish dairy companies and agencies such as Bord Bia, will continue to play a key role in building the market opportunities for Irish dairy.