One of the core aims of agricultural policy is to promote the competitiveness of the sector. With this in mind, policy processes are subject to a continuous process of review and development.
A number of major policy developments which will frame the immediate future of the agri-food sector occurred during 1999, including: the successful conclusion of the Agenda 2000 negotiations in March; the publication of the White Paper on Rural Development in August; and the launch of the national development plan in November.
In May of 1999 I established the Agri Food 2010 Committee. Its objective is to map out a future strategy for agriculture and the food industry over the longer term. With the Agenda 2000 agreement, the White Paper on Rural Development and the national development plan, the Irish agri-food sector now has a favourable framework for development over the next several years. However, this should not lead to any sense of complacency about the future. There are challenges ahead, particularly arising from EU enlargement and a future WTO round. I have, therefore, asked the committee to take a hard look at every aspect of the agri-food sector to ensure that it is sufficiently strong and competitive to meet these challenges and to grow and prosper in the future. I expect to receive its report by the end of March.