O’Neill welcomes latest figures on the food and drinks processing sector

editorial image

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA has today welcomed newly released figures on the performance of the local food and drinks processing sector.

The figures were published in the annual report, ‘Size and Performance of the NI Food and Drinks Processing Sector, Subsector Statistics 2013, with provisional estimates for 2014’.

The Minister said: “Let me start by acknowledging the very real financial difficulties facing the agricultural sector at the moment. Talking to dairy farmers yesterday at Stormont I heard at firsthand about the devastating impact of the downturn in milk prices over the past 12 months. I am also fully aware that a number of other farm sectors are hurting because of global market conditions.

“Turning to the figures published today I’m pleased with the positive figures in this report which indicate that the food and drinks processing sector continued to expand its turnover, employment and exports. Gross turnover grew by 5.8% in 2014.

“The local food and drinks processing sector has been, and continues to be, a real force within the local manufacturing sector. There is clear potential for further growth in this sector in the longer term, driven particularly by growth in export markets seeking high quality, safe and traceable food. It is therefore all the more important that we find a way through the current downturn in farming.

“Looking to the future, I remain committed to helping implement the agreed actions outlined in the Executive’s response to Going for Growth, so that as much as possible of this potential can be realised for the benefit of the wider economy and farmers in particular. In the meantime, I will work collectively with the industry, the Executive and the Agriculture Committee to improve the present situation for our industry.”

The Minister concluded, “I am keen to get our draft Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 approved as quickly as possible so that significant support can be rolled out to the industry to help it develop a solid foundation for a sustainable future.”

The report contains comprehensive data on the values of sales, exports, value added and number of employees for each of the ten constituent subsectors of the food and drinks processing sector in 2012 and 2013. These key statistics are supplemented with fifteen performance indicators for each subsector. Provisional estimates of sales and employment are also provided for 2014.

In addition, a time-series of data covering the period 1989 – 2013 (and 2014 where available) has been published on the DARD website for each of the main variables. These will enable users to identify trends over time in variables of interest to them.

Some of the report’s key findings include:

The value of sales for the Northern Ireland food and drinks processing sector increased by 6.8% from £4,222 million in 2012 to £4,510 million in 2013. Provisional estimates indicate sales have increased further to £4,772 million in 2014; an increase of 5.8%.

In 2013, the food and drinks processing sector is estimated to have contributed 3.8% of Northern Ireland’s total gross value added.

The food and drinks processing sector, as defined in this publication, increased its share of the external sales (24%) and employment (28%) of the Northern Ireland manufacturing industry in 2013. The sector’s proportion of total manufacturing sales (26%) and export sales (24%) remained unchanged. However, the sector’s share of manufacturing industry total value added decreased to 16%.

Within the sector, the beef and sheepmeat and milk and milk products subsectors continued to be the largest subsectors in terms of gross turnover, for both 2012 and 2013. Together, they accounted for 50% and 49% of the sector’s total gross turnover in these years respectively.

The Great Britain market continues to be the largest outlet, with sales increasing to £1,941 million in 2013 (representing 43% of total sales). The Republic of Ireland was the most important destination for export sales, accounting for approximately 16% of total sales in 2013 (£705 million). In both 2012 and 2013, the value of exports to markets outside of the UK exceeded those to the Northern Ireland domestic market.

In both 2012 and 2013 all ten subsectors traded profitably.

The total number of direct employees in the sector increased by 5.3% from 20,281 full-time employee equivalents in 2012 to 21,354 full-time employee equivalents in 2013. Direct employment in 2014 increased by a further 2.0% to 21,783 full-time employee equivalents.