Decisions in relation to the expansion or reduction in herd sizes are determined by individual farmers based on commercial considerations.
However, 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 fifth most carbon efficient producer per unit of beef. However, inherent challenges remain for the sector in terms of contributing to Ireland’s climate change and renewable energy targets.
Food Wise 2025 is a ten-year strategy agreed by a range of stakeholders, both public and private, and adopted by the Government as an overarching policy for the Irish agri-food sector. It underlines the agri-food sector’s unique and special position within the Irish economy and illustrates the potential for further development.
Food Wise includes more than 400 specific recommendations, spread across cross-cutting themes including environmental sustainability; as well as specific sectoral recommendations. If these recommendations are implemented, the expert committee, which drew up the Food Wise 2025 Strategy, believed that the following growth 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.
Food Wise is the latest in a series of strategies that are renewed every five years and preparations for a new 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 agri-food 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 the cross-cutting themes contained in Food Wise (environmental sustainability, market development, competitiveness, innovation, and human capital) will continue to be highly relevant. It is likely that environmental sustainability, and in particular the contribution that agriculture can make to climate action, will need significant consideration and prominence.
In this regard, my Department is currently developing an environmental sustainability roadmap for the agri-food sector to ensure that the future development of agriculture and the land-use sector, including forestry, will be built upon and contribute fairly to Ireland’s climate and energy targets. This roadmap will be published later this year and will form a key element of the 2030 strategy. In parallel, my Department is also working on the development of Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan, which in line with the EU Commission’s proposals, will recognise that greater environmental and climate ambition is required.
Meanwhile my Department continues to review options that will enable our farmers to transition to a low carbon economy. The recently published Teagasc report “An Analysis of Abatement Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030” is key to informing the type of measures we need to implement to continue to reduce the carbon footprint of the sector.
While the mitigation potential for agriculture is limited, agriculture can and must play a key role in contributing to Ireland’s climate change and energy targets in the years ahead.