Food Wise 2025, the ten-year strategy for the agri-food sector, underlines the sector’s unique and special position within the Irish economy, identifies the opportunities and challenges facing the sector and illustrates the potential for further sustainable development.
The expert committee, that prepared the Food Wise 2025 Strategy, believed that the following projections are achievable by 2025: increasing the value of agri-food exports by 85% to €19 billion; increasing value-added in the sector by 70% to in excess of €13 billion; and increasing the value of primary production by 65% to almost €10 billion. With regard to employment, Food Wise foresees the creation of 23,000 additional jobs in the agri-food sector all along the supply chain from primary production to higher value added product development.
These projections relate primarily to increasing the added-value of agri-food exports. Furthermore, the direct payments in Ireland have been decoupled from productions so now the payment is no longer contingent on the number of animals retained.
Ireland has a comparative advantage in grass-based carbon efficient livestock production. The EU Commission JRC report (2010) found that Ireland is the most carbon efficient producer in the EU per unit of dairy production, and the 5th most carbon efficient producer of beef per kg. Government efforts are focused on driving towards even greater carbon efficiency through Origin Green Quality Assurance Schemes, and schemes such as BDGP and BEEP, as well as knowledge transfer.
My Department is pursuing a policy of ensuring that supports to the beef sector explicitly support and encourage suckler farmers to make the best decisions possible to improve both the economic and environmental efficiency of their farming system. The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is improving the environmental sustainability by increasing genetic merit within the suckler beef herd. I recently launched the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), a €20 million pilot scheme specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production from the suckler herd, by measuring the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves.
On the dairy side, Dairy Sustainability Ireland (DSI) is a collaborative initiative established to help farmers meet environmental targets, improve profitability and copper fasten Ireland’s reputation as a world leader in grass-fed dairy production. This work has in turn contributed to the development of the Agricultural Sustainability Support & Advisory Programme, a collaborative initiative to facilitate improvements in water quality.
While we are making progress, there is no room for complacency – the agri-food sector must continue to make improvements in terms of sustainability and environmental performance. Collaboration, co-operation and collective responsibility are necessary to meet the challenges that are facing us. I am convinced that we must all work together to ensure that the sector continues to play its part in meeting our climate obligations and challenges.