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The Food Industry - Overview

Estimates for 2010 provide evidence that the Irish agricultural sector is recovering from the negative effects of the global recession.  The manufacture of food and drink products remains one of Ireland's most important indigenous industries as well as providing the primary outlet for the produce and output of the country's 128,000 family farms. This importance is exemplified across a wide range of variables. Annual turnover in the sector was €22 billion in 2008. The manufacture of food and beverages employs in the region of 43,000 people directly, as well as supporting a multiple of this when those indirectly employed are taken into account. Both direct and indirect employment in this sector has an extensive geographic spread throughout all regions of the country with higher than typical concentrations in rural areas. The industry accounted for €11.5 billion (or approximately half) of sales by Irish-owned manufacturing industries in 2009. The sector also accounted for just under two thirds of exports by Irish-owned manufacturing industries in the same year.

Bord Bia estimates that the value of food and drink exports in 2010 increased by 11% to approximately €7.88 billion. This was attributable to a number of factors including significant declines in the value of the euro against sterling and the dollar, improved relative competitiveness, a recovery in worldwide markets and stronger commodity prices. Over three quarters of exports go to high value markets in the UK and the EU, which accounted for 44% and 34% of exports in the sector respectively, with the balance going to the rest of the world.

Table 5.1 outlines the sector's contribution across some key macroeconomic variables: