Overall Performance and Drivers of Performance
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 resiliance, with value down 6% at €152 million and volumes declining by 7% year on year.
Amenity exports grew again in 2022, after increased levels of sales in 2020 and 2021. Plant sales are softening, but foliage sales are increasing. There is still a heightened interest in gardening and the export opportunity still exists in the UK, the main market for Irish produce, because they are not self sufficient in plant production. Exports to all markets were worth €20 million in 2022, an increase over 2021.
Trends by Key Products
Brown mushrooms continue to grow in popularity in the UK market, the only mushroom category whose value is still above 2020 figures. Irish producers have responded by increasing the proportion of brown mushrooms as this is a higher margin line.
Mushroom producers faced a surge in production costs relating to increased energy, packaging and transport costs. This was partially offset by price increases, but more increases will be needed in future. The sector is reliant on the UK market, with trade influenced by fluctuations in the euro Sterling exchange rate. The lifting of Covid-19 restrictions has meant lower retail sales. Competitors in Europe are facing similar issues, and the transport costs makes the UK a less attractive option for them. The industry in Poland may face compost performance challenges in the coming months due to poor straw quality and availability which could have an adverse impact on mushroom production. Amenity exports have been driven by an increase in sales of foliage, while plant sales have eased. Demand in general has plateaued post the Covid-19 generated gardening surge. But some opportunities exist in the UK, especially in Northern Ireland. Ireland’s disease-free status continues to be a selling point for the industry
The focus for 2023 for mushroom producers will be to stay on top of costs and achieve some price increase. 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 porportion of brown mushrooms sold is likely to grow.
In 2022 the value of cereals exports was estimated at €73 million which is a value increase of 10% year on year. There was a corresponding decrease in the volume exported of 11% year on year. Exports are primarily to Northern Ireland.
Maize is the largest sub-category with exports estimated at just under €30 million in 2022. Trade is dominated by exports of maize seed to the UK.
The value of malt exports was estimated at €11 million in 2022 with a strong lift in prices helping to offset a drop of around 20% in volumes. Key markets included the United Kingdom and Belgium
Barley exports performed strongly with increased volumes boosting the value of trade to around €10 million. Oats exports stood at an estimated 8 million driven by a sharp rise in shipments to the Netherlands. Exports to the UK also grew strongly, reflecting strong demand for Irish oats.
In 2022 the main cereal growing area was up by 3.8% on 2021 at 85,000ha. While the area for spring crops was back slightly, yields and output were higher. Winter crops saw an increase in area, yield. Overall tonnage is estimated to be 2.4 million tonnes, an increase of 3% on 2021. The overall average price per tonne for cereals for feed increased significantly in 2022 compared with 2021 with prices in excess of €300 per tonne quoted for wheat and barley which is estimated to add significantly to the overall value output of the sector for the year. The straw quality was reported as good.
The key market for cereals produced is the domestic market and for animal feed but there is an important element supplied into the food and beverage market.
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