The Central Bank has cautioned that the agricultural industry is facing many challenges, including Brexit, possible future Common Agricultural Policy reform, climate change and profitability.

New research from the bank, published today, shows that after a period of stagnation from 1990 to 2010, agricultural output has increased over recent years. 

The research shows the value of farming output in 2010 was €5.5 billion, only marginally higher than the output recorded in 1995 at €5.2 billion.

But by 2017, the overall volume of gross output in agriculture was 21% higher than in 2010 and in value terms, output rose by 46% to just over €8 billion.

The Central Bank noted that much of the rise in output was driven by the dairy sector after the removal of milk quotas in 2015.

Today's research also reveals that one in 12 are employed in the agri-food industry, rising to as many one one in seven in the border region. In the midlands, mid-west and south-east, around one worker in every eight is employed in the sector.

Just over 40% of agri-food exports went to the UK last year, with some sectors of the industry highly dependent on this market, including cereals (90%) and fruit and vegetables (84%).

Dairy (35%), beverages (21%) and fish (10%) are less exposed.

The Central Bank said that growth in exports to both the EU and outside the EU over the last few years has been "notable". Exports to non-EU countries in 2005 accounted for 21% of total exports, but this has risen to 31% in 2017, it said.

But it said that tariff and border delays which may be associated with a hard Brexit, along with existing viability problems, would pose "significant challenges" for the farming sector, with the beef sector especially vulnerable. 

Recent Central Bank research has shown that potential delays as a result of border delays could result in an estimated 9.6% decline in overall trade - both exports and imports - between the UK and Ireland.

Central Bank Deputy Governor Sharon Donnery

Launching today's research at the National Ploughing Championships, the Central Bank's Deputy Governor Sharon Donnery said that farming makes a significant contribution to the Irish economy.

"However, Brexit continues to pose huge uncertainty to the Irish economy overall, and today's research spells out the specific challenges faced by those working in the agri-food sector across the country," Sharon Donnery said. 

"A hard Brexit which reduces market access for Irish exports would have a material negative effect on Irish agriculture and adjusting to this in the short-term would prove a considerable challenge," she said. 

"Once again, this serves to underscore the importance of progress in negotiations as the March 2019 deadline fast approaches," the Central Banker said.