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Agriculture and Food & Drink Sector

destination of irish exports in 2022

Irish Food and Drink Export Market

While the Irish food and drink sector recorded a strong performance in 2022, it was delivered against a backdrop of unprecedented challenges and uncertainty across the value chain.

The general sentiment amongst Irish food and drink businesses as 2022 progressed was one of an increasingly challenging market environment with a continuation of this trend expected into 2023 as inflationary pressures and challenging macroeconomic conditions persist. Overall, the general theme is that the market delivered improved pricing, although not always at a level sufficient to offset the higher cost environment being faced.

Although it was a challening year for this industry, Ireland's food, drink and horticulture exports increased by 22% in 2022, now reaching a record high of €16.7 billion.



Likely Developments for 2023

The latest forecast from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), suggests that a further slowdown is likely, with a projection that global growth will stand at 2.7% in 2023 with a 25% probability it could be below 2%. While natural gas prices in Europe appear to have eased somewhat for the moment, risks to the global economic outlook remain. It is likely that the continuation of inflationary pressures, higher interest rates and a slower global economy will be a feature for much of 2023.

In 2022, climate change played a role in creating some challenging conditions in the global food supply chain and it is likely that weather or other external factors will have an impact on output and prices in 2023.

For the foodservice sector, 2023 may be a more difficult period, following an enthusiastic return to eating out of home in 2022. While evidence for retailing seems to show a definite trend amongst consumers to reduce their grocery bills.

beef cow

Primary Agriculture


The meat and livestock sector represents the second largest category within Ireland’s food and drink exports. During 2022, Irish meat and livestock exports grew by 15% to reach a value of over €4 billion. 

The value of beef exports in 2022 is estimated at €2.52 billion, which represents an increase of €384 million or 18% on 2021. Similarly, the value of beef offal exports rose by 17% to €134 million leaving the combined value of beef and offal exports 18% higher at an estimated €2.65 billion.

The outlook for beef export markets remains uncertain for 2023. Global and EU supplies look set to remain well balanced, however the impact of cost of living factors and consumer sentiment on beef purchasing behavior will remain a critical factor in determining price developments.

sheep in field


The value of sheepmeat exports increased by 17% to €475 million while the volume of exports increased by 10% to 75,000 tonnes. This is the third consecutive year in which Irish sheepmeat exports recorded volume and value growth.

The EU remains the priority market for Irish sheepmeat exports and accounting for approximately 75% of exports in both volume and value terms, with trade valued at €353 million, up 18% from 2021 levels.

The consumer response to ongoing inflationary pressure is expected to continue to affect Irish sheepmeat exports during 2023, particularly within the EU. Higher input costs at both farm and processing level will challenge margins in the sector combined with likely weaker demand from key export markets.

pig in mud


Despite the ongoing pressures faced by the sector, Irish pigmeat export values were 2% higher in 2022 at €540 million, as higher prices helped to offset some reduction in export volumes as the year progressed. However, pig producers were faced with unprecedented production costs, which severely impacted on viability for much of the year.

The volume of Irish pigmeat exports fell marginally to 228,000 tonnes in 2022. However, exports to the UK were 3% higher at €95 million driven by higher unit pricing as volumes to this market declined.

The invasion of Ukraine continues to have a profound impact on the EU pigmeat sector due to its impact on feed and energy prices, the two main inputs for pig producers.

chicken on path


Irish poultry export values are estimated to have increased by 14% in value terms to €143 million during 2022, with volumes up 3% at 78,000 tonnes.

Stronger pricing helped to offset lower export volumes. There was some further redirection of Irish poultry exports into the EU from international markets. The value of Irish poultry exports to the EU rose by 31% to €30 million. Key markets within Europe include the Netherlands, France, Denmark and Germany. In addition, the Spanish market grew significantly, albeit from a low base, reflecting sales of dark poultry meat products to the retail channel.

The global poultry industry is expected to show further recovery in 2023 despite the operational challenges faced by the sector. A weaker economic climate will lead to more price-driven consumer behaviour, which supports poultry consumption. However, AI is now endemic in many countries, and restrictions around trading breeding stock could lead to an ongoing tight supply.

dairy cow in field


Irish dairy exports reached a record value of €6.8 billion in 2022 representing 33% growth versus 2021 with over 1.7 million tonnes of product shipped to over 130 markets worldwide.

The strong trading momentum building at the end of 2021 continued into 2022 supported by reasonable dairy demand and weaker global milk flows across peak season. This helped to sustain record-high returns for dairy commodities for much of the year.

Looking forward to 2023 it is expected that Irish dairy supply will be modestly ahead of 2022. Increased availability of fertiliser early in the year and favourable weather conditions would provide support to volumes. Volatility in energy costs and availability of labour will be other factors that may influence production decisions.

person holding green plant


Horticulture and cereal exports in 2022 amounted to €301 million. Among cereals, potatotes, and other vegtables, mushrooms held the highest export value by share in 2022 - 50%.

The Irish mushrooms sector faced challenges in its main market the UK, in terms of cost increases, currency fluctuations towards the end of the year and reduced retail sales as Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. However, the mushroom sector has shown resilience, with value down 6% at €152 million and volumes declining by 7% year on year.

The focus for 2023 for mushroom producers will be to stay on top of costs and achieve some price increases. There is a longstanding relationship between the Irish growers and UK retailers, built on the quality of mushrooms supplied, and good service. In addition, Irish growers are positioning themselves as premium suppliers with innovative vitamin enhanced mushrooms. The indications are that the industries all over Europe face the same issues with cost increases, while transport costs to the UK further erodes their margins. The proportion of brown mushrooms sold is likely to grow.