Ireland’s Food and Drink Sector

Sector head Roisin O’Shea gives an overview of Ireland’s Food & Drink Sector.

The Food & Drink Sector is a strategically important industry for the Irish economy. It generates significant export value (€13bn. in 2020) and is particularly important in helping to achieve a balanced split of regional development. It also has a significant multiplier affect with over 71pc of materials sourced domestically. As part of the overall Agrifood Sector it employs over 7pc of the working population.

Exports have been increasing (+67pc since 2010) and domestic demand remains robust. In Irish-owned food production companies, exports increased to 56pc of average turnover in 2017. The number of Food Production enterprises increased by 45pc to 1,715 between 2008 and 2016.

In broad terms, for an export focused sector, the outlook is positive as world’s population increases and additional free trade agreements (such as the 2019 Japan EU agreement) become more established. The threat of a hard Brexit loomed over the industry since the referendum in 2016.  However the conclusion of the Trade and Cooperation agreement between the EU and UK in 2020 has given certainty to the industry on the future shape of the trading relationship with our most important export market.

The Food & Drink Sector is diverse – straddling sub-sectors from Dairy to Alcoholic Beverages.  In recent years, on the back of increased levels of R&D, there has been a focus on increasing the level of added value in the products, away from such basic export as live cattle through to higher added value segments such as highly specialised ingredients or and premium branded whiskeys.

Roisin O’Shea
Roisin O’Shea is head of Food & Drink at Bank of Ireland.