A pioneering graduate Fellowship Programme aimed at boosting Irish food and drink exports and supporting Irish companies expand their market reach was launched by Bord Bia in Dublin today (Thursday, 30th July). Twenty five experienced graduate Fellows will be placed in the international marketplace and will partner with 100 Irish food companies on whose behalf they will undertake 200 key assignments across thirty three international markets. The €1 million Marketing Fellowship Programme, will be run in association with the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.
The new initiative was announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr. Brendan Smith TD, who said that "the programme is a highly innovative response to the exceptional challenges our food industry is facing from the impact of the global economic downturn and the market dislocation caused by the depreciation in sterling". He added: "the programme will play an important role in helping Irish companies to diversify into new markets while seeking to protect existing export business that last year exceeded €8 billion in value".
The administration of the programme, for which recruitment is to start immediately, was awarded to the UCD Smurfit Graduate School of Business following a tender process. While the graduates will be based full-time in the marketplace, the programme will also incorporate six academic modules at the Smurfit School and marketing assignments will be rigorously assessed. The graduate Fellows will be awarded a Graduate Diploma in International Marketing Practice on completion after twelve months and will then have the option of completing a Masters degree.
The chairman of Bord Bia, Mr. Dan Browne said "This is an important and timely initiative which has been widely welcomed by industry as evidenced by the huge number of assignments submitted by Irish food companies. The graduate fellows will benefit from their direct engagement with exporters, the experience and oversight of Bord Bia’s network of international offices, and the rigour of academic supervision offered by the Smurfit Graduate Business School. The Irish food industry will benefit not just in terms of new business development opportunities but also, on completion, from the availability of a network of highly skilled and experienced marketing executives".
The programme will cover all food industry sectors, from prepared consumer foods to meat, dairy, beverages, seafood and horticulture. The markets covered will include the UK, Continental Europe, Russia, Asia and the United States.
"The initiative, in particular the completion of some 200 business development assignments, will provide us with the most comprehensive overview ever of commercial market opportunities and Irish supply capabilities. In doing so it will enable us to build new insights into charting the future strategic direction, from a market perspective, of the Irish food industry", according to the Chief Executive of Bord Bia, Mr. Aidan Cotter.
Tom Begley, Dean, UCD Business School commented "UCD Smurfit School’s partnership with An Bord Bia represents an exciting contribution to the development of innovative capabilities in Irish food firms. The food sector is a dynamic and vital component of Ireland’s economy. Our School is delighted to offer its expertise toward increasing the stock of Irish managers with a world class capability to grow international markets. We look forward to playing our part in developing a new cohort of future leaders for the food industry."
Bord Bia will integrate the new Fellowship Programme with a range of other market building initiatives planned by the organisation to assist the food industry broaden its export reach. A new, targeted trade awareness campaign will focus on the European marketplace and coincide with the industry’s largest ever presence at Anuga, the world’s most important food and beverage trade fair, taking place in Germany this autumn. Some 22 Irish food and drink companies, representing sectors from meat and dairy products to seafood and frozen foods, will exhibit across five exhibition halls at the fair, which takes place in Cologne from 10th to 14th October.
Bord Bia has also decided to bring forward Marketplace 2010, to build on the momentum the Fellowship Programme is expected to create. Marketplace, which will now take place in Dublin next February, will bring upwards of 250 food and drink buyers from UK and mainland Europe to meet with Irish suppliers. In the meantime, funding for its Foresight4Food programme, designed to support companies bring consumer focused innovations to the market is being expanded. In total, Bord Bia is investing more than €1 million in additional market building initiatives that will run in parallel and be integrated with the Marketing Fellowship Programme.
In January, Bord Bia indicated that the task of "Broadening Export Reach" had become a major strategic priority in light of the challenges the industry was encountering in the marketplace as a result of the global economic downturn and currency volatility and the need to seek out new opportunities.
Irish food and drink exports fell for the first time in 2008, by 6.5%, to just under €8.2 billion. A further decline is anticipated in 2009 arising from continued sterling pressure, severe difficulties in the global dairy market, and the impact of the economic downturn which is bringing pressure on returns across all sectors. However, there is some prospect for a return to growth in 2010.
Ireland’s agri-food sector plays an important role in the Irish economy, accounting for almost 9% of employment and 10% of Irish exports. As much as 65% of manufacturing exports by Irish-owned firms are estimated to consist of food and drink. The UK is the main destination for Irish food and drink exports, accounting for 45% of the total; 32% go to Continental EU markets with the remaining 23% going to non-EU markets. The Irish food and drink sector has the highest usage of Irish produced inputs across major sectors in the Irish economy with close to three quarters of the sector’s inputs sourced domestically.