My Department continually monitors the levels of employment in the agriculture and wider agrifood sector. Employment figures are primarily sourced from the Central Statistics Office quarterly labour force survey. Additional data on specific sectors are also sourced from Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Irish Forestry and Forest Products Association.
The agrifood sector is an essential part of the economic and social fabric of Ireland, especially in rural and coastal areas. Irish food is produced by farmers, fishermen and agrifood companies around the country and this locally-produced food is exported to more than 180 countries around the world. Primary agricultural output increased from €5.9 billion in 2008 to €8.2 billion in 2018, an increase of 39%. Agrifood exports increased from €7.9 billion in 2009 to €13.7 billion in 2018, marking growth of over 73% since 2009.
At the same time, the numbers working in the agrifood sector have seen a gradual decrease. In 2008, employment in the sector averaged 182,350 compared with 172,800 in 2018, a decrease of 5.2%. Much of this can be attributed to increased productivity and the adoption of new technology, although there have also been changes to the way the figures are measured by the CSO. The Food Wise 2025 strategy includes actions to support farmers and agrifood businesses in improving the competitiveness and profitability of their enterprises. These supports make Irish farm enterprises more efficient and maximise their contribution to regional and local rural economies.
Based on the first three quarters of the year, the 2019 employment figure for the agrifood sector as a whole averages 163,000 or 7.1% of national employment. This must be seen in the context of record employment figures across the economy as a whole. Employment in primary agriculture is 96,800 and 4,600 are employed in the forestry and fishing sectors. The food and beverages sector employs 55,600, with wood and wood processing accounting for a further 6,000 jobs.
It should be noted that the labour force survey is based on the main employment a person reports in the survey. Where a part-time farmer reports his or her off-farm job as his or her main employment, he or she will not be recorded as working in primary agriculture. It is also important to note that while the overall level of employment from these sectors is 7.1% of total employment nationwide, the proportion of employment outside Dublin is much greater.