Decade of growth reported for food and drink sector
The value of sales in Northern Ireland's food and drink sector has risen to £4.5m, according to a new report from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (DARD).
And data covering 1998 to 2013 released by DARD also shows a decade of uninterrupted growth.
DARD's annual report on the size and performance of the food and drinks processing sector showed that sales increased by 5.3% from £4m in 2011 to £4.234m in 2012.
The report also shows that food and drink contributed around 3.7% of Northern Ireland's total gross value added in 2012.
Beef and sheep meat and milk and milk products were the largest subsectors, accounting for 50% total gross turnover in 2011 and 2012. However, the beef and dairy markets are facing challenges – including the impact of the strong pound on exports.
Dr David Dobbin, chairman of trade body the Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association and chief executive of Dale Farm, said: "The industry's performance over the last 10 years of uninterrupted growth is impressive. We have seen an increase in sales and employee numbers throughout a difficult economic period – and significantly for the first time since 1989 the value of our export sales was higher than sales within the Northern Ireland market.
Despite current challenges in the beef and dairy markets, the Executive's recent decision to move forward with the Agri-Food Strategy Board's 'Going for Growth' report, will help ensure that the industry's growth will continue."
In 2012, the sectors contributed 26% towards the sales, 23% towards external sales and 27% towards the employment of the Northern Ireland manufacturing industry.
Great Britain continued to be the largest market for food and drink with sales of £1.7m 2012. The Republic of Ireland was the most important destination for export sales, accounting for 16% of total sales in 2012.
In 2012, the value of exports outside of the UK exceeded those of the Northern Ireland market for the first time.