The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, has said that 2011 was another very positive year for the Irish agri-food sector, surpassing even the results of 2010.

But Mr Coveney said recent trends show that 2012 could be very challenging for agriculture as world prices decline and some of our trading partners enter recession.

Mr Coveney said export figures show that the sector exported produce worth €8.8billion, an increase of about 12% on 2010.

Exports in 2011 are 25% ahead of the levels recorded in 2009.

He said the future of the sector is also heavily dependent on the outcome of negotiations both within Europe and between the EU and other global economies.

Ireland is a small open economy, he said, and volatility in world commodity prices can have serious adverse consequences in terms of lower prices for our produce or higher prices for our inputs.

The dairy and beverages sub-sectors performed particularly well, with exports from the dairy sector were up by 17%.

Some of this growth was in new markets, which is particularly welcome and dairy exports outside of Europe are estimated to have reached more than €930m euro in 2011.

IFA estimates bad weather will cost €100m

The IFA estimates that the bad weather is going to cost grain growers €100m.

The Association say that yields are down by 25%, only one-third of the crops have been cut, and half a million tonnes in potential cereal production has been lost at this stage.

The chairman of the IFA's National Grain Committee, Noel Delaney, said after a downbeat meeting in Portlaoise this afternoon that every day the weather fails to pick up more damage is done to crops and the yield potential is slipping.

Mr Delaney said that because there has been no let-up in the rainfall, ground conditions remain challenging and many fields cannot take heavy machinery.

However, he noted that the weather forecast suggests an improvement in the middle of this week, which may give growers the chance to get working. They remain hopeful, he said, that the rest of harvest can be saved.

Mr Delaney said ground conditions are deteriorating rapidly with water tables at unusually high levels for the time of year. Even if the weather improves, parts of many, if not all, of some fields may be left un-harvested at this stage as some parts of the country are receiving in excess of 200% of normal rainfall for the time of year.