Dairy industry continues to underpin Irish economic performance

January 13, 2021

Exports in the Irish dairy and specialised nutrition sector delivered a stellar performance for the Irish economy in 2020 given the challenges faced, according to Dairy Industry Ireland (DII), the Ibec association representing the Irish dairy and Specialised nutrition sector. 
DII was commenting following the publication of Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects report, which showed a 3% uplift in dairy exports to €5.2 billion despite the challenges to the industry from the Covid-19 pandemic and the disruption of Brexit.
The industry led strategy of aggressively diversifying Irish dairy markets in preparation for Brexit is also paying dividends with almost half of exports now going outside both the UK and the EU.
DII Director Conor Mulvihill said: “Irish dairy and specialised nutrition processing in the spring faced the vista of the first peak of Covid almost exactly overlapping with the all-time record peak of milk production on the island. 
“To arrive at the situation that we find today that every drop of milk was processed, employees kept safe, suppliers fully paid and increased revenue to the economy is nothing short of a remarkable achievement.
“Even in the face of these challenges the industry has also worked hard on driving improvements in its environmental agenda, added value product development as well as looking at diversification of end use markets. 
“This is testament of the herculean effort of all stakeholders along the dairy supply chain.”
To continue the success of the industry DII underlined that there are a number of areas that need continued attention:
Export Credit Insurance- Despite all our competitors having this in place to help through the challenges of covid and Brexit, Ireland remains a complete outlier without a state backed scheme. This is now a fundamental competitiveness issue where Irish government policy is putting the industry at a clear disadvantage.
Environment and Sustainability - The industry recognises this as the key area of improvement over the coming decade. We have much work done and we want a whole of government and whole of sector approach implemented, using forums like Dairy Sustainability Ireland, to ensure that the industry continues its environmental success in tandem with economic delivery for our country.
Brexit – While we have been successful in our diversification strategy, Britain remains a key market for us. We very much are looking that the all-Ireland dairy economy is protected, and government and political supports are put in place to mitigate the increased costs associated with getting product to the British market.
Capex Investment- Dairy & Specialised nutrition is now Ireland’s largest native industry. To continue success, we need to work with government in delivering world leading processing infrastructure to maintain our competitive advantage.
Research and Development- needs to be accelerated to underpin our value add offerings in terms of developing functional foods as well as helping us with technological on factory and on farm solutions to help us underpin our sustainability credentials.
Diversification agenda- continued support for industry and Bord Bia to develop international routes to market.