Ireland's agri-food exports exceeded €1 billion per month for the first time last year, according to new figures published today by Bord Bia.

It is the eighth successive year of growth in agri-food exports and was driven by a very strong surge in the export of dairy products, particularly butter.

When non-edible products such as forestry are included total agri-food exports hit €13.5bn last year, a 17% increase on the total for 2016.

The dairy sector was the strongest performer with a 19% surge bringing dairy exports to over €4bn.

Dairy now accounts for one third of all of Ireland's food and drink exports.

The beef sector also performed well with export sales up by 5% to almost €2.5bn.

Very strong export growth was also recorded in prepared food exports, which were up 17% to €2.2bn, while the value of beverage exports went up by 8%.

The figures show Ireland's agri-food sector continues to diversify with exports to international markets outside of the European Union and the UK exceeding €4bn for the first time.

Despite concerns over the impact of Brexit and of the weaker value of sterling on agri-food exports to the UK, the Bord Bia figures show that the UK remains Ireland's most valuable food export market and grew again last year.

Nevertheless, Bord Bia Chief Executive Tara McCarthy highlighted the currency risk that remains for all sectors especially those such as horticulture and prepared foods that are hugely dependent on the UK market.

She warned that sterling volatility, combined with slower economic growth, food inflation and lower wage forecasts, will put further pressure on the UK market as an export destination.

Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Michael Creed said he is pleased that the significant additional resources provided by Department of Agriculture to Bord Bia as a key part of the Government's Brexit response has helped to support Irish food and drink company export performance in 2017, as shown by the results, and will continue to do so into the future.

Bord Bia expects 2018 to be another year of export growth for the agri-food sector.