Beverage exports up 4% in 2016

The value of Irish beverage exports grew 4% last year to reach €1.4 billion, with whiskey, at €505 million, up 8% and being responsible for 36% of the country’s beverage export total.

At €305 million, Irish liqueurs were responsible for 21% while beer was responsible for 20% or €290 million (up 2%).

Exports of craft beer have increased twofold between 2011 and 2016.

The rest of the export package was taken up by water (9%), cider (3%), juices (5%) and ‘other’ (5%).

A recovery in cider exports to the UK helped offset currency fluctuations.

Water and juices too showed strong growth.

The figures formed part of Bord Bia’s Export Performance & Prospects 2016-2017 report launched this morning by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Mr Michael Creed TD in Bord Bia’s Thinking House HQ at Clanwilliam Place.

The total value of Irish agri-food and drink exports exceeded €11 billion for the first time ever in 2016, with 70% of this growth in food & drink exports going to markets outside the EU. As a destination, food and drink exports outside the EU account for some 31% of overall food and drink export values.

“2016 marked the seventh successive year of growth of Irish food and drink exports, with a further 2% increase recorded to reach a record high of €11.15 billion, an expansion of 41% or €3.3 billion since 2010,” stated the Minister, “The strongest performing sectors last year were prepared foods (€1.92 billion, +9%), beverages (€1.4 billion, +4%) and dairy product and ingredients (€3.38 billion, +2%).

“One of the notable features of this achievement is the impact of market diversification in the year in which the UK decided to leave the European Union. While trade with the UK fell by 8%, triggered by challenging exchange rates, uncertainty arising from Brexit and further competitive pressures, this was offset by increased exports to international and emerging markets such as North America (+€200 million to reach €1.1 billion), China (+35% to reach €845 million) and the rest of Asia (+6% to reach €330 million). An overall increase of 13% in shipments to international markets, to reach a value of approximately €3.5 billion, was particularly remarkable,” added the Minister.

The €uro strengthened by 13% against sterling in 2016 while there was little change in exchange rates with the US dollar. According to Bord Bia estimates, the underlying weakness and volatility of sterling negatively affected the competitiveness of Irish exports reducing the value of trade by a potential €570 million.

In the overall exports picture, beverages were responsible for around 12% of the total food and drinks export figure.

Demand for premium alcoholic beverages helped offset slower demand from some developing markets with the main growth markers including North America, Asia and Continental Europe.

“Premium beverages are going to remain key to beverage export growth,” explained Padraig Brennan, Bord Bia’s Director of Markets, who presented the report’s findings.

While the UK is a country that’s only 60% self-sufficient, it accounts for 40% of our food and drink exports.

Beer and cider both recorded growth while liqueurs remained relatively steady.

Exports of non-alcoholic beverages were boosted by stronger sales of water, offsetting reduced exports of carbonated soft drinks.

UK beverage exports declined by an estimated 3% to €380 million or 27% of all beverage exports as stronger exports of beer, cider and whiskey were more than offset by reduced sales of non-alcoholic beverages.

However exports to other European markets showed strong growth, increasing by more than 15% to an estimated €315 million.

International markets beyond the EU grew further, largely due to higher whisky exports to the US, the top export market for Irish beverages (followed by the UK, Canada, Germany and France).

Increased trade was also reported to Asia on the back of stronger whiskey and non-alcoholic beverage sales. This helped offset lower trade to Africa and the Middle East which reported lower exports of beer and cream liqueurs. Total beverage exports to ex-EU markets are estimated to have grown by 2% to some €705 million in 2016, with international markets outside the EU now accounting for half of total beverage exports.

The outlook for 2017 indicates that with a further rise in premium export performance expected, the drivers for beverage exports will be strong global demand for whiskey, liqueurs and craft premium products as well as a maintenance of performance on international markets and healthier lifestyles helping exports of non-alcoholic beverages.

Overall, Padraig Brennan predicted that there’s a lot of potential to expand our international exports in the coming years.

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