A record €19bn worth of agri-food products were exported from Ireland last year, representing 9% of total exports, a new report from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has found.
The total represents an uplift of €3.4bn or 22% on 2021, although growth was mostly driven by price inflation as the volume of exports rose just 1%, according to the department’s 2023 annual review and outlook.
At €6.9bn, dairy exports grew €1.7bn or 33% from 2021 and accounted for the largest share of all agri-food exports, with international sales of both butter and cheese exceeding €1bn, while beef exports rose €620m or 22% year-on-year to €3.1bn.
Beverage exports grew €97m or 17% to €2.1bn, with Irish whiskey exports accounting for around half of the total (€1bn), while the value of seafood exports increased 5% to €642m.
Pigmeat exports, meanwhile rose 2% or €20m to €954m, and forestry & wood exports increased 10% or €66m to €749m.
Business Bulletin

The only sectors which fell were fruit and vegetables, €41m or 19% to €179m; other meat & meat produce (-€4m to €26m); and wool, flax & cotton (-€700,000 to €6.6m). Overall, Ireland had an agri-food trade surplus of €6.4bn.
Of the total agri-food exports, dairy made up more than a third (36%), ahead of beef (16%), beverages (5%), forestry & wood products (4%), animal feed (4%), fish (3%), cereals (3%), live animals (3%), coffee, tea, cocoa & spices (3%), sheepmeat (3%), and other (9%).
The agri-food sector now employs 164,900 people, equivalent to 6.5% of Irish jobs, reflecting “the natural comparative advantages of Irish production and a long agricultural tradition,” according to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.
The Minister said the value of Irish agri-food exports had increased by 76% over the past decade, largely driven by price increases rather than growing volume, and food, drink and primary production made up 40% of all export sales by Irish-owned companies.
“The Irish agri-food sector continues to adapt and evolve, operating more efficiently and sustainably year on year. We have huge ambition to be a world leader in sustainable food systems and there is proven demand for food produced to our high standards,” said McConalogue.
“I believe that as global demand for food increases there are vast opportunities for the sector on its value driven production trajectory.”
The report notes that Ireland has 135,000 farms, 2,000 fishing vessels and aquaculture sites as well as 2,000 food production and drink enterprises, with agri-food products being exported to 180 countries.
The UK (€6.8bn) is Ireland’s top export market, followed by the US (€1.7bn), the Netherlands (€1.7bn), France (€1.2bn) and Germany (€1.1bn).
The report was published after the suspension of Irish beef to China following a reported case of BSE.
The value of Irish agri-food exports to China in 2022 was €722m, the sixth-highest among export destinations.
Agri-food is Ireland’s fifth-largest export category after medicinal and pharmaceuticals, chemicals, machinery, and manufactured goods.
(Pic: Getty Images)