The formulation of Irish agriculture policy takes place in the first instance within the framework provided at EU level by the Common Agricultural Policy. This in turn sets the context for what is now a well-established process of strategy development at national level, with a new strategy developed every five years by all of the stakeholders in the sector.
From a CAP perspective, clearly the objective is to create the conditions for the sector to develop to its full potential. The increasing market orientation of the policy over the last number of years - which Ireland fully supports - has allowed farmers to respond to the demands of the market rather than producing in line with EU supports. Demand for food at a global level is continuing to grow, and Ireland is responding through the production of high-quality, sustainably produced products that the market wants. Whether this arises in the case of meat or dairy or any other products, Ireland will continue to meet those demands in a sustainable manner.
In terms of strategy development at national level, the latest iteration of this process is Food Wise 2025, which sets out a range of actions designed to ensure the sustainable development of the sector over the next number of years. Informed by the need to deploy human capital effectively, to ensure the competitiveness of the sector, to support market development and to encourage innovation, the strategy is also underpinned by the need to achieve sustainability in everything we do. Good progress is being made in the implementation of the strategy, and our thoughts are now turning to what its successor will aim to achieve in the period to 2030.
The decision on what to produce is ultimately down to the primary producer, and is dictated by the need to respond to market demands. The primary focus of my Department and its agencies will be to continue to create the environment for such decisions to be made in an informed way, and in a way that ensures the sustainable development of the sector into the future.