GROWTH IN IRISH FOOD AND DRINK EXPORTS LED BY ASIA, AFRICA AND NORTH AMERICA - Bord Bia has said that 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; with growth in exports led by Asia, Africa and North America. Bord Bia said the prospects for exports this year are positive, especially for beef, but warns that feed and other input cost developments in the livestock sector will play a key role in determining farm level performance, following a difficult year last year because of poor weather conditions and higher costs.

Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter says that the Irish food and drink sector put in a robust performance last year despite some challenging conditions worldwide, including weak consumer patterns in the UK and Europe. Among the best performing sectors were meat, seafood and beverages. Mr Cotter says that sales into international markets were up 9% after growth of 20% in 2011, with Asian markets performing particularly well. Exports to Asia are now 75% higher than three years ago, with the dairy, beverage and seafood categories especially strong here. Pork exports to China are also seeing positive growth. The Bord Bia CEO says that the Irish food and drink industry is well positioned for the year ahead with eight out of ten businesses involved in the sector expecting to increase sales. For 2013, Mr Cotter says that Africa continues to look very interesting and represents a very big opportunity for Irish exporters.


MORNING BRIEFS - In a trading update, builders merchants Grafton Group said its revenue for last year was €2.17 billion - almost 6% higher than in 2011 with trading stronger towards the end of the year. While there was growth in the group's UK merchanting business, the decline in its Irish merchanting business slowed. Grafton said the immediate outlook for demand in its markets remains challenging and the timing and extent of any recovery is unclear. But it added that it is well placed to benefit from a market recovery, and that there will be a continued focus on improving profitability.

*** A new investment by the Chinese information and communications technology firm Huawei will see 38 new jobs created. 12 positions have already been filled at its new research and development centres in Cork and in Dublin. The Chinese firm has had operations in Ireland for eight years, employing 40 people. It employs over 140,000 people worldwide.

*** According to figures for November from the Irish Banking Federation, mortgage approvals increased to 2,010 mortgages at a value of €346m. The IBF said this represents a volume increase of 25% on November 2011. 94% of the loans were for property purchases, the rest for re-mortgages and top-ups.