‘Climate change threatens Irish agriculture’

Climate change could cost Irish agriculture up to €2bn, according to a Stop Climate Chaos report, which was published today.

According to the report, by Dr Stephen Flood of NUI Maynooth, €2bn represents 8.2 per cent of the current contribution of the agricultural sector  to the national economy annually and at the upper level is greater than the Harvest 2020 targeted increase of €1.5bn in primary output.

This report, commissioned on behalf of Stop Climate Chaos, presents projected economic impacts of climate change on Irish agriculture in the light of increasing investment and intensification. Stop Climate Chaos is a coalition of civil society organisations, including An Taisce, BirdWatch Ireland, BirdWatchIreland .

“The Irish agriculture sector is set to grow significantly based on the Government’s Food Harvest 2020 plans,” the report outlined. “Indicative targets from this report include an increase of primary output in the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector by €1.5bn to €6.1bn by 2020, equating to a 33 per cent increase over the 2007-2009 average.”

Among the possible climate change impacts identified by the report include: increase in water demand for spray irrigation, projected changes in aridity measured as postnatal soil moisture deficit, heat stress impact on dairy milk production among others.

It also outlines the risk of Blue Tongue Virus Type 8 and Africian Horse Sickness, and in addition, the estimated loss due to weeds, animals pests and pathogens and viruses on Irish what, maize and potato crops.

The full report is available here.

Reacting to the report, Irish Farmers Association (IFA) president John Bryan said there “was no substance to the predictions”.

“What is real and deliverable are the growth plans for the sector, which are on track based on what has happened since 2009. Food Harvest expansion plans are sustainable. Our export target is actually ahead of where we expected to be in 2013 and agriculture is one of the few sectors reporting an increase in jobs this year.”

Bryan insisted that Ireland can justifiably say it has one of the most sustainable models of agricultural production in the world. “Initiatives such as Origin Green and the measurement of our carbon footprint on more than 30,000 farms show the level of commitment we have to a system of food production that is low on emissions.”

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