Report on the Northern Ireland food and drinks processing sector

Date published: 30 July 2020

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has published its annual publication, ‘Northern Ireland Food and Drinks Processing Report’ previously known as ‘Size and Performance of the Northern Ireland Food and Drinks Processing Sector, Subsector Statistics’.

DARD statistics

The report contains comprehensive data on the values of sales, value added, number of employees and destination of sales for each of the ten constituent subsectors of the food and drinks processing sector for 2017 and 2018. These key statistics are supplemented with fifteen performance indicators for each subsector.


In addition, a time-series of data covering the period 1989 – 2018 has been published on the DAERA website for each of the main variables. These will enable users to identify trends over time in variables of interest to them.

The report’s key findings are:

  • Total gross turnover of the Northern Ireland food and drinks processing sector is estimated to have increased by 7 per cent in 2018 to £5,162 million.
  • Value added by the sector increased by 1 per cent to £921 million between 2017 and 2018. 
  • The estimated number of direct full-time employee equivalents (FTE) in the sector remained broadly the same at 23,625 in 2018 compared to 23,632 in 2017.
  • Between 2017 and 2018 the sectors sales increased within Northern Ireland (+£6.9m), to Great Britain (+£240.1m), to Ireland (+£81.9m) and to other EU countries (+£27.3m). Sales to the rest of the world fell slightly (-£0.2m). Great Britain remains the sectors largest market accounting for 51 per cent of sales in 2018 compared to 50 per cent in 2017. 
  • The food and drinks sector contributed 35 per cent to total manufacturing sales in 2018, an increase from 32 per cent in 2017. The sector accounted for 38 per cent of manufacturing external sales in 2018 and 23 per cent of export sales.
  • The sectors contribution to total Northern Ireland GVA has remained unchanged between 2017 and 2018 at 2 per cent. The contribution to manufacturing gross value added increased from 19 per cent to 20 percent.
  • The sectors contribution to total manufacturing employment fell from 28 per cent to 27 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

Notes to editors: 

This statistical press release relates to the annual publication “Northern Ireland Food and Drinks Processing Report 2018”


The report and time-series data from 1989 – 2018, may be downloaded free of charge from the DAERA website at: Northern Ireland Food and Drinks Processing Report

This is a National Statistics report.  National Statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.

 Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook

7. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office.

8. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

Share this page

Back to top