Bord Bia has said the value of exports of food and drink from Ireland last year was over €9 billion for the first time.

Meat and livestock made up a third of exports, followed by drinks and seafood. The growth in exports was led by Asia, Africa and North America.

Bord Bia said the prospects for exports this year are positive, especially for beef.

But it warned that feed and other input cost developments in the livestock sector will play a key role in determining farm level performance.

This follows a difficult year last year because of poor weather conditions and higher costs.

''Despite falling global commodity prices, lower output in some sectors and the continued weakness in consumer spending in established markets, the Irish food industry has delivered another robust export performance,'' commented Bord Bia's chief executive Aidan Cotter.

''The continued diversification into new and emerging markets, benefitting further from favourable exchange rates, is particularly welcoming with exports to Asia up by 75% since 2010,' he added.

During the year, Bord Bia said that the weakening of the euro against sterling helped boost trade to the UK, where the value of exports rose by 5% to reach €3.8 billion. This represents 42% of total Irish food and drink exports in 2012.

Irish food and drink exports to international markets, excluding the UK and EU, put in another strong performance with trade growing by 8% to more than €2.4 billion. This means that the region now accounts for 27% of total exports with the growth in exports led by Asia, Africa and North America.

But Bord Bia said that ongoing weakness in many economies across the euro zone, as well as more favourable exchange rates with both sterling and the US dollar, impacted on trade levels to other EU markets and exports were down 8%.

Breakdown of Bord Bia sectors

Breaking down its sectors, Bord Bia said that its meat and livestock exports rose by 4% or almost €130m to reach nearly €3 billion last year - a third of total food and drink exports. It noted that the value of beef exports is estimated to have grown by 2% despite an 11% drop in output. Pigmeat exports rose by 16%, while the value of Irish sheepmeat exports increased by 7% to reach €205m and the value of Irish poultry exports declined marginally.

The value of Irish dairy and ingredient exports for the year fell by 2% to stand at €2.66 billion on the back of a drop in global product prices. Bord Bia noted that milk deliveries were down 2.5% due to the poor weather conditions during the summer months.

Exports of prepared foods fell marginally to an estimated €1.38 billion as the market remained challenging due to higher input costs and competitive pressures. The strongest performers in this sector last year were value added dairy products, pizza, sauces, bakery and sugar based confectionary.

Bord Bia said that the Irish beverage sector put in another strong performance in 2012 due to continuing growth in whiskey, along with a stable performance by cream liqueurs and beer. Total drink exports rose by 3% to reach €1.26 billion.

Bord Bia also said that the value of seafood exports rose by about 18% to €493m, while the value of edible horticulture and cereals exports grew by 2% to €243m during the year.