April 14, 2021

Ireland’s seafood sector remained resilient throughout 2020, despite the ongoing difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a new economic assessment has found. 

The Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) report found the sector adapted to the disruption triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak and associated measures to help slow its spread, with employment remaining stable and new markets explored. 

More than 16,000 people are employed directly and indirectly by Ireland’s seafood industry. 

The value of the seafood economy in Ireland last year was almost €1.1 billion, a decline of 12% year-on-year as the global markets were disrupted. Domestic consumption was 18% lower as the foodservice sector was effectively closed for much of the year and the ongoing uncertainty over the UK’s exit from the European Union contributed to challenging conditions.

Exports to European and Asian markets were lower, but the value of exports to Africa grew by 87%, and the Middle East saw an increase of 43%. The EU remained the top export market at €321 million, with the UK at €93m and Africa accounting for €75m.

Imports accounted for €327m, with €188m coming from the UK.

Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, who launched the report, said: “Undoubtedly 2020 was a challenging year for the seafood sector but yet again the sector displayed its ability to adjust and refocus to the available market opportunities.

“The seafood sector maintained a strong and important continuous supply of top quality seafood overcoming the challenges presented by the pandemic.”

Exports-imports were valued at €263m, down 10%, while private investment fell 17% to €213m. Government investment was 9% higher at €203m.

Irish vessels landed a total of €346m into Irish ports, with Killybegs accounting for €112m and Castletownbere at €104m.

BIM Chief Executive Jim O’Toole said: “There is no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year for the seafood industry with many markets experiencing reduced demand, directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Irish seafood sector sells a lot of its produce to foodservice markets in Europe and in Asia which experienced lengthy lockdowns significantly impacting sales. The industry showed great agility during the year and looked to alternatives for its products, switching where possible from supplying hospitality to supplying the retail market and online sales.”

O’Toole said he remained optimistic about the sector’s future. 

He added: “Looking ahead, there are many reasons to be hopeful and the sector is set to avail of the opportunities that will emerge as markets reopen and we can look forward to some recovery as 2021 progresses, notwithstanding the new challenges introduced by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the UK.”

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