The value of Irish food exports hit a record high in 2015

Bord Bia's figures show that the country enjoyed its six consecutive year of growth

The value of Irish food exports hit a record high in 2015

A herd of dairy cattle (cows) on a farm outside Navan in Co Meath | Image: Photocall

Bord Bia has reported a sixth consecutive year of growth in the value of food and beverage exports - increasing by 3% to a record €10.8bn in 2015.

The performance was achieved against the backdrop of a near 20% fall in global commodity food prices, particularly in the dairy sector.

Dairy exports managed to rise by 4% last year, this has fuelled by a 25% surge in sales of infant formula, with strong growth in China - the country is now our fifth largest export market and exports there were 16% higher.

Bord Bia said that beverages were the fastest growing category of exports, values increased by over 10%. This was partly due to sustained growth in Irish whiskey exports - they grew by 18%.

Beef exports rose by 6% - while seafood increased by 4%. The UK remains Ireland's largest export market, followed by the US.

Bord Bia's chief executive Aidan Cotter commented on the figures:

"Irish food exporters registered record growth, increasing exports by some €355m in a period when global food commodity prices declined by approximately 19%, the Russian market was effectively closed to EU food exports, and consumer sentiment remained sluggish across the euro zone.

"This year will present further opportunities for growth in most sectors notwithstanding challenges from continued global dairy price pressures through the early months of 2016," he said.

Meanwhile, Ornua the former Irish Dairy Board, has established its first manufacturing base in China with the acquisition of a small, Shanghai-based dairy producer, Ambrosia Dairy which supplies a range of products to the premium retail and food sector in the region.

Ornua, which has not disclosed a price for the deal, said the purchase will provide an entry point for the supply of dairy ingredients to the rapidly-expanding Chinese food service sector and complement the existing range of Kerrygold milk products on sale there.