Ireland - Country Commercial Guide
Agricultural Sector

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-10-08


Agricultural production is a key driver of the Irish economy. A major livestock producer, Ireland has very limited horticultural and grain production on account of its topography and climate. Ireland manufactures many derivatives and value-added products from its livestock base. However, much of its beef and dairy products are exported. Ireland imports around 80 percent of its animal feed, food, and beverage needs.   Ireland receives a considerable proportion of its agricultural commodity and grocery product needs from the UK, although this has declined by 25 percent in the first half of 2021 on account of additional customs and logistical complexities following the UK’s departure from the European Union. Ireland also imports from EU countries such as the Netherlands (beer, cut flowers), France (beer, wine), and Italy (wine, non-alcoholic beverages). Major third country trading partners are Chile (wine, apples), Argentina (wine, animal feed), and New Zealand (wine, bovine semen).  Ireland is a key destination for U.S. animal feed ingredient exports. However, the United States is currently not a major direct supplier of food and beverage products. Ireland generally receives many U.S. products including wine, fresh and dried fruit, and confectionery via the UK, but some products may now route to Ireland via France or the Netherlands, or be shipped directly from the United States post-Brexit. Import demand is forecast to increase only slightly in 2021, since local production is forecast to increase by one percent.

Agricultural Food, Feed, and Beverage Trade (USD Millions)





2021 forecast

Total Local Production





Total Exports





Total Imports





Imports from the U.S.





Total Market Size





Exchange Rates

1USD = 0.85 Eur

1USD = 0.89 Eur

1USD = 0.88 Eur

1USD = 0.89

(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)
Units: $ millions
Source:  This table covers Chapters 1 – 23 of the Harmonized Schedule Codes

Total Local Production – Estimated from Bord Bia Export Performance & Prospects 2020-2021

Other data: Ireland’s National Statistical Office/Trade Data Monitor

Leading Sub-Sectors

The most important category for U.S. agricultural exports to Ireland is lightly processed or bulk commodity products destined to be incorporated into rations for Ireland’s livestock industry.  As Ireland has very limited capacity to produce grains for animal feed it must import significant quantities.  The trade is highly dependent on global prices and local harvest success.  It really depends on whether Irish farmers have their own feedstock for animals in any given year or whether there is a need to import.  It is also dependent on whether the European Union approval system for genetically engineered crops has kept pace with what is planted in the United States.  If the United States plants a variety of soy or corn not yet approved for food/feed in the EU, trade in derivatives of these products ceases.

In 2019, over 50 percent of agricultural and food imports into Ireland from the United States were animal feed ingredients. The lines below show Ireland’s import values from the United States and other main suppliers for calendar year 2019:

  • Distillers Dried Grains: United States ($48 million); Canada ($20 million); Sweden ($12 million)
  • Other animal feed, including Corn Gluten Feed: Argentina ($57 million); UK ($9 million); Russia ($6 million); United States ($6 million)
  • Soybean meal: Argentina ($170 million); Canada ($35 million); UK ($27 million); Paraguay ($17 million); United States ($15 million);

In addition, connected to its livestock dominance, Ireland imports around $2-3 million worth of bovine semen every year. The United States currently has over 20 percent market share of this trade, and likely more since product is also routed via the UK.

Live horses for the high-end racing industry are $30-35 million per year in U.S. exports.

Edible Fats & Oils, Vegetable Saps & Extracts, Essential Oils, Whey, Peptones/Other Proteins, Flavorings and Enzymes are imported to support Ireland’s manufacturing sector with ingredients not readily available in Ireland.

Some grocery items such as sauces, chips, cookies, confectionery are imported directly, as well as fresh produce/nuts not produced in Ireland such as sweet potatoes, almonds, grapes, and walnuts.


Opportunities exist in all sectors.  However, research is needed to identify routes to market and main players.

Sectors showing total import growth in the last three years include:  Animal Feed, Sugar Confectionery, Consumer-Oriented Groceries, and Alcoholic Drinks.

Outside of public health pandemic-related measures, foodservice, on-the-go, and fast-food sectors represent the fastest growing areas.  Healthy, clean label ingredients are also required for ready meals, snacking solutions, and breakfast cereals.