The Irish whiskey sector is set to invest over €1 billion in Ireland in the next 10 years.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney today launched the Irish Whiskey Association (IW).

The association revealed that Irish whiskey exports have grown by 220% since 2003. It is expected that exports will double to €12m by 2020.

The industry spends €230m a year in the Irish economy, including €35m a year on cereals and barley from Irish farms.

The sector has grown significantly since 2003. At that time, Irish whiskey made up just over 9% of beverage exports; it now accounts for 28% of beverage exports from Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Coveney said: "The launch today of the Irish Whiskey Association is a sign of the industry’s shared vision. Export expansion, at least 15 new distillery projects and planned investment of €1 billion over the next 10 years is a significant mark of confidence in our economic future".

The new association says 5,000 jobs are supported by the Irish whiskey sector, 780 jobs directly in distilling and the remainder in agriculture, marketing and advertising.

Irish whiskey visitor centres also attract over 500,000 tourists every year, and are sold in 77 countries. USA, France, Germany, Russia and the UK account for almost 75% of total sales.