Premium quality is the cornerstone of all agrifood products, including grain, beef, dairy and other sectors. Irish food products have a highly rated and hard earned reputation in terms of quality, safety and sustainability, and this gives them a competitive edge in markets all over the world.
The Irish cereals sector plays a significant role in the supply of high quality grain to the feed industry, providing raw material for the food and drinks industry and is a key source of seed production.
Cereals are therefore a significant stakeholder in our agrifood industry from a supply/food safety and sustainability viewpoint and the continuance of an efficient and viable tillage sector in Ireland is vital. My Department continues to provide significant supports to the sector under the Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme, the Tillage Capital Investment Scheme under TAMS II, the EU Protein Aid Scheme and the fodder production incentive measure introduced in 2018.
- The Tillage TAMS scheme supports tillage farmers adoption of more efficient and sustainable practices by supporting the purchase of items such as GPS guidance and cover crop establishment equipment.
- My Department also provides a high quality official crop seed certification scheme to the industry.
- The €3m coupled Protein Aid Scheme has encouraged the production of beans and peas, which reduces our dependence on imported protein feeds, while giving growers the option to adapt more sustainable crop rotations. In spring 2018 I announced the continuation of the Protein Aid Scheme for 2019 and I envisage it remaining for the period of the current CAP.
The Strategy for the development of the Organic Food Sector, which was launched by my colleague Minister of State Andrew Doyle, recognises the opportunities that exist for the Irish Organic Food Sector and provides clear direction for the development of the Sector up to 2025. It aligns the strategic growth plans of the Organic Sector with the broader Food Wise 2025 Strategy for food and drink.
The overall strategic objective is to develop a consumer-led viable Organic Food Sector in Ireland enhancing the sustainability credentials of Irish food which will produce a wide range of organic products to meet increasing domestic and export market opportunities. To this end, this Strategy sets measurable strategic objectives for each sub-sector and incorporates actions considered essential to further support the industry’s development and achieve growth targets.
In respect of dairy, in 2018, Ireland exported dairy products to approximately 140 countries totalling over €4.5 billion worth of produce, an increase of over 5% by volume compared to 2017 and another year of strong performance by the Irish dairy sector.
My Department, in conjunction with other stakeholders, including the Irish dairy companies and agencies such as Bord Bia, are playing a key role in building the market for Irish dairy with intensive Ministerial trade mission programmes and other promotional work. I am delighted to acknowledge that Kerrygold has achieved over €1 billion in annual sales globally.
According to the CSO, Ireland exported almost €3.9 billion worth of meat with a volume of over 1 million tonnes in 2018. My officials continue to work towards opening and enhancing access to as many markets as possible. This is a key part of our response to the challenges and uncertainty posed by Brexit, and in line with the market development theme of the Food Wise 2025 strategy. As you are aware, Irish food products are stocked in all major retailers across the globe.
Preparations for a new agrifood strategy to 2030 are underway. Its development will involve an analysis of a range of cross-cutting themes and the various sub-sectors of the agrifood industry; a formal public consultation; and the establishment of a committee to develop the strategy.
Without pre-empting the work of the new committee and the eventual content of the 2030 strategy, it is clear that consideration will have to be given to the production systems of animal and plant products from our livestock, cereal and horticulture sectors as well as customer and consumer demands.
Quality Assurance plays a fundamental role in promoting food and horticulture and provides the platform for consumer promotion of product quality. Bord Bia operates a series of quality assurance schemes for the food industry. The schemes are built on best practice in farming and processing, current legislation, relevant industry guidelines and international standards - and are accredited to the ISO17065/2012. They are reflected in the high level of trust placed by consumers in QA labels.
As I stated earlier, premium quality is the cornerstone of all Irish agrifood products and the measures I have outlined will serve to maintain and enhance our enviable reputation throughout the world into the future.