Report on the Northern Ireland Food and Drinks Processing Sector

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 2016 and 2017. These key statistics are supplemented with fifteen performance indicators for each subsector. Provisional estimates of sales and employment are also provided for 2018.

In addition, a time-series of data covering the period 1989 – 2017 (and 2018 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 size of the Northern Ireland food and drinks processing sector has grown in 2017 and is making a greater contribution to the Northern Ireland manufacturing sector.
  • The value of sales for the Northern Ireland food and drinks processing sector increased from £4,347million in 2016 to £4,810million in 2017; an increase of 10.6%. Provisional figures estimate sales in 2018 at £4,952million.
  • In 2017, the food and drinks processing sector is estimated to have contributed approximately 2.3% of Northern Ireland’s total gross value added, no variation from last year.
  • The food and drinks processing sector contributed 33% of external sales, 22% of export sales and 32% of total sales in the Northern Ireland manufacturing industry in 2017. The sector’s proportion of total manufacturing employment increased to 30%. The sector contributed a 19% share to the gross 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 2016 and 2017. Together, they account for approximately 48% and 50% of the sector’s total gross turnover in these years respectively.
  • Great Britain is the largest market for the Northern Ireland food and drinks processing sector with sales increasing to £2,337.1million and representing 49% of total sales in 2017. Ireland is the most important export destination and accounted for £716million in 2017; 15% of total sales. In 2017, the size of value of the Northern Ireland domestic market was smaller than those markets outside of the UK.
  • In both 2016 and 2017 all ten subsectors traded profitably.
  • The total number of direct employees in the sector rose by 5% from 22,539 full-time employee equivalents in 2016 to 23,641 full-time employee equivalents in 2017. Direct employment in 2018 is estimated to increase by 5% to 24,818 full-time employee equivalents.