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Factsheet on the Irish Agriculture and Food & Drink Sector

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Food and drink

  • The agri-food and drink sector accounts for 7.6% of Irelands economy-wide GVA, (DAFM, 2014) 12.3% of Ireland’s exports and 8.6% of total employment. (DAFM, 2014)
  • In 2015, Irish agri-food and drink exports increased by an estimated 3% to approximately €10.8 bn (Bord Bia, 2016).
  • The UK was the main destination for Irish agri-food and drink exports in 2015 accounting for 41% of all exports. 31% of exports went to Continental EU markets while the remaining 28% went to international markets.

Graph of Irish agri-food and drink exports in 2015

  • The latest estimates of the distribution of our agri-food and drink exports in 2015 by sector are as follows: dairy products and ingredients (30%), prepared consumer foods (17%), beef (22%), live animals (2%), beverages (12%), pigmeat (5%), poultry (3%), sheepmeat (2%), seafood (5%) and edible horticulture and cereals (2%).

Primary Agriculture

  • In 2014, Gross Agricultural Output (GAO) was valued at €7.12 billion. (DAFM, 2015)
  • The beef category accounts for 39.3 per cent, while the dairy sector accounts for 29.4 per cent. Other sectors to have a share in GAO include pig (7.6%), sheep (4%), cereals (4.4%), and other (15.3%).

Cattle and Beef

  • There were 6.96 million cattle in Ireland according to the June 2015 livestock survey. This represents a 0.5% increase on previous year levels. Irish beef production is predominately a grass based system, with around 564,000 tonnes produced in 2015.
  • Beef self-sufficiency is estimated at over 640%.
  • In 2015, Ireland exported an estimated 500,000 tonnes of beef worth approximately €2.41 billion.
  • In 2015, 178,000 cattle were exported live from Ireland worth approximately €135 million.

Sheep and Sheepmeat

  • The Irish sheep flock showed a rise of 1.3% and totalled 5.16 million head, with the breeding flock decreasing by around 1.1% to 2.56 million head according to the June 2015 livestock survey.
  • Net production in 2015 was over 58,000 tonnes and self-sufficiency is estimated at over 370%.
  • During 2015 Ireland exported an estimated 47,000 tonnes of sheepmeat which was valued at approximately €230 million.
  • The UK and France continue to be the core markets for Irish sheepmeat accounting for over 60% of total export volumes in 2015.

Pigs and Pigmeat

  • In the June 2015 CSO Livestock Survey, there were 1.54 million pigs in Ireland, this represents an decrease of 1.2% on prior year levels.
  • Net production in 2015 was over 276,000 tonnes with a self-sufficiency rate estimated at around 195%.
  • In 2015, Ireland exported an estimated 230,000 tonnes of pigmeat worth an estimated €570 million.
  • In 2015, the UK was the main market for Irish pigmeat taking 40% of our total exports. Continental EU markets accounted for 25% of our pigmeat exports while the remaining 35% went to international markets.

Dairy

  • In 2015, total milk output (incl. imports) was estimated at 6,982 million litres. (CSO, 2016)
  • From this total milk output in 2015, 507 million litres was consumed as liquid milk. In addition to this 200,000 tonnes of butter and 121,800 tonnes of skim milk powder was produced. 215,000 tonnes of cheese was produced in 2014.
  • In 2015, total dairy and ingredients exports increased by an estimated 4% to €3.24 billion.

Crops

  • Area (‘000 hectare) under certain crops in June 2015 (CSO 2015) were as follows:
    • Barley – 201.8
    • Wheat – 64.9
    • Oats – 23.3
    • Potatoes – 8.4

Irish Farms

  • There are approximately 139,860 family farms in Ireland with an average size of 32.7 hectares per holding. (CSO, Census of Agriculture 2011).
  • The land area of Ireland is 6.9 million hectares, of which 4.5 million hectares is used for agriculture and a further 730,000 hectares for forestry (DAFM, 2015).
  • 81% of agricultural area is devoted to pasture, hay and grass silage (3.6 million hectares), 11% to rough grazing (0.5 million hectares) and 8% to crops, fruit & horticulture production (0.37 million hectares). (DAFM, 2015)