Thursday, 6 October 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
41. Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide an update on efforts being made to encourage trade links with new markets for agrifood businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27715/11]
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Deputy Simon Coveney): The Food Harvest 2020 strategy envisages a significant increase in output and production in the dairy and meat sectors in addition to other areas of food and drinks production, with the ultimate aim of achieving an export target of €12billion in 2020, i.e. an increase from a figure of €8billion in 2008. I and my Department have identified the facilitation of trade and the development of mutual cooperation with key trading partners as a key focus of our work in the coming years to realise this strategy. We are working closely with industry, other government departments and agencies such as Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland and our embassies to identify new opportunities to grow and develop trade and to consolidate existing markets.
Bord Bia anticipates that exports of Irish food and drink in 2011 will reach a new all time high of €8.9 billion, an increase of more than 12%, or almost €1 billion, on 2010 levels. This follows growth of €700 million in 2010 leaving Ireland’s food exports in 2011 some 25% ahead of 2009 levels. This confirms that the projected targets for Food Harvest 2020 are well on the way to being achieved.
Bord Bia has indicated that all major categories are expected to show growth this year, led by dairy and meat, which combined account for more than 60% of total food and drink exports. Strong global prices are driving export growth, with the FAO food price index 26% ahead of this time last year; however increased volumes of dairy products, pigmeat, whiskey, cider, confectionery, sauces/soups and mushrooms are also boosting revenues. It is estimated that volume growth across these categories will account for up to 30% of the total.
Against this background I am very conscious of the need to consolidate and grow existing markets but also of the valuable opportunities for increasing trade in agriculture products in new and emerging markets.
The Chinese market represents a huge opportunity for exports of food and beverages. Developing close working relationships is very important in progressing trade issues. In that connection, I hosted a visit by the Chinese Vice-Minister for Agriculture earlier this year. The Vice Minister and I signed an action plan on mutual cooperation mechanisms between our two countries in the agrifood and fisheries areas and on furthering trade between our two countries. This will result in Chinese officials working within my Department and the Marine Institute and in undertaking educational courses in Ireland. I hope to visit China shortly to further deepen other areas of cooperation with China which will ultimately help to facilitate trade and exports to China.
I have just returned for a very successful visit to Algeria, which is a key target market for growth in Irish dairy exports. Indeed Africa presents significant opportunities also for food exports. Irish food exports to Algeria have increased from €22m in 2009 to €39m in 2010 with the bulk of these exports comprising dairy exports with a value of €37.6m in 2010. The purpose of the visit was to enhance trade and official relations with Algeria, to build relationships at governmental level and to raise some market access issues. In addition I presided at the official opening of an Irish dairy packing and distribution plant and an Irish Algerian retail outlet.
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