Commenting on the Size and Performance of the Northern Ireland Food and Drinks Processing Sector statistics, published by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Charlie Kerlin, Head of Agri Food at leading business advisory firm Grant Thornton Northern Ireland, said:

“The data provides welcome reading for the food and drinks processing sector, which is estimated to have added around £113 million of turnover between 2016 and 2017, representing a 2.6 per cent increase to £4,478m.

“However, the performance varied widely across the subsectors with firms processing sheep and beef meat estimated to have increased turnover by £40.9m compared to a provisional £8m decline in turnover in the pigmeat sector.

“The statistics also show an overall growth in employment in the sector, up 4.7 per cent to 23,479 full-time equivalents. This is a reminder of the importance of the sector for local employment.

“The report also includes a useful snapshot of the relative size of Northern Ireland’s export markets, ahead of the UK’s exist from the European Union.

“Finalised figures for 2016 show that around 75 per cent of sales are in the domestic market, with GB continuing to be our primary market, however exports to the Republic of Ireland amounted to £623.5m or just under 15 per cent of overall turnover.

“It illustrates how much of the sector is likely to be most impacted should a ‘no deal’ Brexit occur and the possible imposition of World Trade Organisation tariffs, dramatically increasing the costs of selling to markets outside the UK.”