The Irish dairy market, following on from broader EU and international trends, is currently in a much improved position compared to the relatively recent past during the period 2014 - 2016. Of course, my Department remains extremely vigilant in monitoring the current market and emerging trends, particularly as we approach the peak period for Irish milk production.
In 2018, Ireland exported dairy products to approximately 140 countries totalling over €4.5 billion worth of produce, an increase of over 5% by volume compared to 2017 and another year of strong performance by the Irish dairy sector. I expect this increase in exports of Irish dairy products to continue into the future with increasing emphasis on third country markets.
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. My Department, in conjunction with other stakeholders, including the Irish dairy companies and agencies such as Bord Bia, are playing a key role in building the market for Irish dairy with intensive Ministerial trade mission programmes and other promotional work. Against the backdrop of our efforts to significantly increase dairy output and grow the sector, export market diversification is of the utmost importance, and this is particularly true in the context of a post-Brexit scenario.
The long-term fundamentals of the global dairy market are strong, with growing global demand projected from emerging economies with increasing middle classes. 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.
My Department has engaged and will continue to engage with stakeholders on these and other important issues.