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Minister Coughlan launches Agriculture and Food Annual Review and Outlook 2006/2007

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today announced the publication of the Annual Review and Outlook for Agriculture and Food 2006/2007.

The Minister said "The all-encompassing nature of the agri-food sector is very much evidenced in this publication. It continues to be one of the most important and dynamic indigenous manufacturing elements in the Irish economy, consisting of over 130,000 family farms and around 700 industrial units spread throughout the country. It plays a vital role in the Irish economy through provision of direct as well as indirect employment and constitutes the backbone of rural development from both an economic and social perspective. The Annual Review reflects the level of importance and the wide ranging nature of the sector".

The Minister added: "The export performance of the sector in 2006 exhibits its continued strength in the face of increasingly competitive international markets, with agri-food exports reaching a record level of over €8 billion".

Within the export sector there were notable increases of 26% for beverages, 14% for beef and 10% for prepared foods. Overall the agri-food industry is estimated to account for 9.8% total exports, 8.1% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 8.1% of employment.

The Minister said "the Food, Drink and Tobacco (FDT) sector continues to play a vital role in the Irish economy. It remains one of the largest indigenous industries both in terms of manufacturing and consumer spend".

The FDT sector, with just over 15% of units located in Dublin, exhibits a wider regional spread than the manufacturing sector as a whole where one quarter of units are concentrated in and around the capital. The sector is therefore crucial for maintaining employment and growth in rural areas.

Furthermore among Irish enterprises the FDT sector has consistently outperformed the manufacturing sector as a whole in terms of the proportion of expenditure attributable to Irish goods and services. This is highlighted by the fact that Irish Economic Expenditure (IEE) accounts for over 75% of expenditure in the FDT sector compared with less than 50% for the overall manufacturing sector.

The Minister emphasised the Government's commitment to the sector with public expenditure of €2.9 billion in 2006. The National Development Plan (NDP) and Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 will ensure that adequate resources are made available for improving the structure and competitiveness of the sector, in line with the vision set out in the Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan. The NDP provides for total public expenditure of €8.7 billion for the agri-food sector, which encompasses the Rural Development Programme, as well as support for other areas such as agri-food research and the food industry. This will greatly facilitate and encourage the required level of investment for the development of a knowledge-based bio-economy.

The report is available in both English and Irish on the Department's website at www.agriculture.gov.ie/publications2007

31 May, 2007

Date Released: 31 May 2007