Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney is leading a five-day trade mission to West Africa.

The trip, which officials have described as the largest trade mission to the area in two decades, aims to improve economic links with Nigeria and Ghana in particular. 

Ahead of the trip, Minister Coveney said Ireland is "strategically placed" to be a key supplier to West Africa.

"The region has a strong demand for imports of quality food, given the size of its population and Ireland is strategically placed to be a key supplier of quality dairy and meat products, but also high end services in the field of education, finance, engineering, construction and technology,” he said.  

More than 40 companies, as well as delegates from state agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia and Sustainable Food Systems Ireland will take part in the trip which will cover three major cities across Nigeria and Ghana.

Chief Executive of Enterprise Ireland Julie Sinnamon said it was the ambition to grow the value of exports to the region by 60% to €600m by 2018.

"The continent as a whole is the second fastest growing economy in the world and is home to eight of the world's fastest growing economies," Ms Sinnamon said.

Minister Coveney will also visit a number of aid projects funded by the World Food Programme, which receives €8m in support from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Overall, bilateral trade with Nigeria was worth half a billion euro in 2014 (exports €339m), with Guinness extract the single largest export. 

Merchandise trade with Ghana was worth €38.7m in 2014 (exports €36.3m).