Minister of State for Tourism & Sport, Michael Ring has has said that the agri-food sector is on course for another strong year, following bumper export results for 2011. The Minister of State also confirmed that 98% of Single Farm Payments have been paid to farmers in County Mayo with outstanding payments set to be processed as quickly as possible.
“The end of year figures from Bord Bia for food and drink exports confirm what most of us within the sector already knew; 2011 was a great year for Irish agri-business. Food and drink exports reached record levels last year, with the value of sales abroad up 12% to almost €9 billion.
“Dairy, meat, prepared foods and seafood were the best performing sectors, illustrating the wide variety, and therefore the huge potential, on offer in the Irish market. A huge body of work is underway by the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, and by food and drink companies across the country, to develop existing markets and identify new opportunities.
“According to Bord Bia, 85% of exporters see their prospects for the year ahead as good or very good. Last year’s strong performance puts the sector on track to achieve further advances this year, despite the difficult international environment.
“A number of initiatives introduced in December’s Budget will help agri-business capitalise on export markets. For example, Foreign Earnings Deduction will make it easier for farm businesses to send workers overseas to develop new markets in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China ).
“Furthermore, Minister Coveney is planning to visit China this year to hold talks with his Chinese counterpart. A Chinese delegation visited Ireland recently and was particularly impressed with our grass-based production systems. This provides a prime opportunity to expand in the biggest emerging market in the world.
“It’s also good news to be able to confirm that 98% of Single Farm Payments have been paid to farmers in County Mayo. Cash-flow is a critical issue for farmers, particularly those on low incomes; that’s why these payments are so important for farmers and for the rural economy.”