Irish food, drinks and horticulture exports declined marginally by 2% in 2020, to €13 billion, in a period marked by unprecedented change and challenges, according to the annual Bord Bia Export Performance and Prospects report 2020/2021.
In 2019, Irish food and drink exports amounted to €13.2 billion.
The figures underline the dividend of a decade-long diversification strategy that has seen Ireland achieve a broad global base for its food and drink exports, which now reach more than 180 countries, the study noted.
Sectors that witnessed growth in exports include Irish dairy, pigmeat and sheepmeat.
The value of exports to Africa and the Middle East witnessed a significant increase in this period, the report said.
'New Level Of Resilience'
Minister for agriculture, food and the marine, Charlie McConalogue, T.D., commented, "Ireland's food and drink producers faced many challenges on the domestic and international front last year arising from the economic impact of the pandemic, closures of foodservice and changes in consumer behaviour. Despite this, they found a new level of resilience that saw exports in 2020 of close to 2019 levels."
According to estimates by the agriculture department, the total agri-food exports, including non-edible products not included in Bord Bia data, amounted to €14.3 billion in 2020.
Ireland's global exports of food and drink grew by over €1.9 billion, or 16% in value, since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016.
Exports to EU27 contributed €871 million to this growth, while international markets contributed €817 million.
The UK accounted for just 10% of this growth, or €195 million, since 2016.
The success of the Irish food and drink industry's diversification strategy is evidenced by reduced dependence on the UK market and increased geographic spread of exports, the report said.
The value of Irish food and drink exports to Asia increased by 14%, to €1.4 billion, since 2016.
Over the same period, exports to Africa increased by 86% to €883 million in value, while continental Europe (EU27) grew by 25% to €4.4 billion.
In 2020, 33% of Ireland's total food and drink exports were destined for international markets outside the UK and EU, while 34% went to the EU27 and 33% to the UK, the report revealed.
Commenting on the outlook, McConalogue said, "In 2021, my department, along with Bord Bia, will focus on supporting our primary producers and manufacturers as they trade through continued uncertainty to support jobs and communities throughout Ireland."
Chief executive of Bord Bia, Tara McCarthy, added, "Last year was a pivotal year of learning for us all and 2021 will be even more significant in terms of how we apply these learnings to rebuild and drive growth in new and emerging markets."