The recent strong surge in global corn and soybean prices is set to have a further upward impact on meat and dairy commodity prices, and ultimately on Irish food exports, in 2013 and beyond.
In the meantime, Irish export values for 2012 are being affected by the continuing volatility in markets, with dairy product prices still some 25 per cent off their March 2011 peak as measured by the FAO, although the impact has been softened somewhat by more favourable exchange rates, according to the Irish Food Board, Bord Bia.
"Notwithstanding the consequent slowdown in export values this year, which comes after a 25% increase over the previous two years when they rose to €8.85 billion, the underlying trend for Irish food and drink exports remains strongly positive and well on track to meet the targets set in Food Harvest 2020," commented Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive, Bord Bia, on the opening day of the 81st National Ploughing Championships taking place in New Ross, Co. Wexford.
"Exports this year will also be affected by the adverse weather conditions, poor grass growth, and the rising cost of inputs with which farmers across all enterprises have to contend. The situation is most acute in the pigmeat sector, whose exports will rise by 10 per cent this year, but where the sharp rise in animal feed costs has left producers facing an exceptionally challenging financial situation. The anticipated rise in global feed prices will eventually ease the pressure on all sectors, while the international competitiveness of Ireland's grass-based livestock and dairy enterprises should by comparison with intensive feed based systems," he added.
Global food prices, while on a clear upward trajectory, are now set to reach their third peak in just five years, highlighting the extreme volatility that has come to characterize the sector. It further underlines the importance of the Irish food industry’s commitment to sustainability as a differentiator in such a volatile environment – a commitment reflected in the fact that companies representing almost 50% of our food and drink exports are now signed up to Origin Green.
Sectors and Markets
The strongest performing categories in 2012 are expected to be meat, seafood, edible horticulture and to a lesser extent, beverages. Exports to international markets meanwhile have been performing strongly, rising by almost 10 per cent to date this year, as significant increases to Asia, North America and to a lesser extent Africa boosted trade. The UK remains the principal export destination with exports largely unchanged during the first six months of 2012 with its share of exports remaining at 41 per cent.
Sustainability: Origin Green Update
With nearly 60 Irish leading food and drink companies signed up following its launch in June, Bord Bia's Origin Green initiative has already attracted a highly encouraging level of industry support. The 60 companies, accounting for almost 50 per cent of Irish food and drink exports, include market leaders such as Kerry Foods, ABP Foods, Diageo, Carbery, Dawn Meats, Kepak, Irish Distillers and Glanbia. Each company is now charged with developing a sustainability plan that will be independently verified, before they can benefit from the use of the Origin Green branding and marketing materials. To assist with the development of these plans, Bord Bia will hold a series of sustainability workshops from early October.
Bord Bia has appointed SGS Group, one of the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification companies, with 1,800 offices and laboratories around the world, to provide verification services for Origin Green. In addition to reviewing the industry's sustainability plans and verifying progress reports, SGS will participate and present at the workshops.
An international targeted communications programme is already underway to build awareness of Origin Green and Ireland as a source of sustainably produced food. Earlier this month, Bord Bia hosted 31 journalists from across Europe on a dedicated two-day sustainability itinerary and next month, some 15 Irish food and drink companies will participate at SIAL Paris, the world’s largest food and drink trade show, under Bord Bia's Origin Green banner.
On the domestic front, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, will present the inaugural Sustainable Quality Beef Producers Awards 2012 today (Wednesday 26 September). In total, 12 farmers have been shortlisted based on their sustainability credentials with regard to carbon footprint, biodiversity and water management. Organised by Bord Bia, in conjunction with the Irish Farmers Journal and Teagasc, the Awards aim to highlight the link between environmental sustainability and efficient beef production at farm level.
Shortlisted farmers for the Sustainable Quality Beef Producers Awards 2012 were:
Suckler to Beef Production
James Greer - Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan
Patrick Liddy - Newmarket on Fergus, Co. Clare
David Kinsella - New Ross, Co. Wexford
Suckler to Weanling/Store Production
Patrick Kenny - Ballyduff Upper, Co. Waterford
Raymond Palmer - Castlefinn, Co. Donegal
Eamonn and Mary Holohan - Rathdowney, Co. Laois
Weanling/Store to Beef Production
Edward Keane - Grange, Co. Waterford
Richard Bournes - Ballinasloe, Co. Galway
Brian McCabe - Drogheda, Co. Louth
Dairy Calf to Beef Production
Michael Murphy - Nenagh, Co. Tipperary
Freddie Merrin - Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan
Timmy Hannon - Kilmore, Co. Clare
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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