Report on the Northern Ireland food and drinks processing sector

Date published: 26 July 2018

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has published its annual report, ‘Size and Performance of the Northern Ireland Food and Drinks Processing Sector, Subsector Statistics’.

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 for 2015 and 2016. These key statistics are supplemented with fifteen performance indicators for each subsector. Provisional estimates of sales and employment are also provided for 2017.

In addition, a time-series of data covering the period 1989 – 2016 (and 2017 where available) has been published on the DAERA 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 decreased from £4,415million in 2015 to £4,365 million in 2016; a fall of 1.1%. Provisional figures estimate sales in 2017 at £4,478million.
  • In 2016, the food and drinks processing sector is estimated to have contributed approximately 2.2% of Northern Ireland’s total gross value added, no variation from last year.
  • The food and drinks processing sector, as defined in this publication, contributed 23% of external sales, 18% of export sales and 24% of total sales in the Northern Ireland manufacturing industry in 2016. The sector’s proportion of total manufacturing employment increased to 27%. The sector contributed a 16% share to the value added of the manufacturing industry. 
  • Within the sector, the beef and sheepmeat and milk and milk products subsectors continue to be the largest subsectors in terms of gross turnover for both 2015 and 2016. Together, they account for 48% and 49% of the sector’s total gross turnover in these years respectively.
  • Great Britain is the largest outlet for the Northern Ireland food and drinks processing sector with sales increasing to £2,193million and representing 50% of total sales in 2016. Ireland is the most important export destination and accounted for £646million in 2016; 15% of total sales. In both 2015 and 2016, the size of value of the Northern Ireland domestic market was smaller than those markets outside of the UK.
  • In both 2014 and 2015 all ten subsectors traded profitably.
  • The total number of direct employees in the sector rose by 4.0% from 20,555 full-time employee equivalents in 2015 to 22,413 full-time employee equivalents in 2016. Direct employment in 2017 estimated to increase by 4.8% to 23,479 full-time employee equivalents. 

Notes to editors: 

  1. This statistical press release relates to the annual report “Size and Performance of the Northern Ireland Food and Drinks Processing Sector, Subsector Statistics 2016, with provisional estimates for 2017.”
  2. The report and time-series data from 1989 – 2016/2017, may be downloaded free of charge from the DAERA website.
  3. If a hard copy of the report is required, it may be obtained, price £6 including postage and packaging, from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Economics and Evaluation Branch, Room 817, Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Ballymiscaw, Belfast, BT4 3SB.
  4. The Department may take photographs and videos at announcements and events to publicise its work. Photographs, interviews, videos or other recordings may be issued to media organisations for publicity purposes or used in promotional material, including in publications, newspapers, magazines, other print media, on television, radio and electronic media (including social media and the internet). Photographs and videos will also be stored on the department’s internal records management system. The department will keep the photographs and recordings for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they have been obtained. The Department’s Privacy Policy is available on our website.
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  6. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or via email. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974 383 and your call will be returned.

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