‘Pulling the threads together’ in Ireland’s agri-food policy tapestry

The Open Policy Debate on Ireland’s Agri-Food Strategy to 2030 will see the different challenges and opportunities of the Irish agricultural sector being “pulled together” to form a directional policy for the industry over the coming years, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed.

The minister was speaking to AgriLand at the Department of Agriculture’s Open Policy Debate on Ireland’s Agri-Food Strategy to 2030, held in the Aviva Stadium today, Wednesday, October 16.

Approximately 400 attendees were present, including leading representatives of farm organisations, agri-food businesses, state agencies and related firms among others.

The minister said: “What we are doing here today is beginning the process of drafting the next FoodWise strategy.

“What has been the core strength of that strategy up to now and has achieved significantly is the collaborative nature of all farm bodies – primary producers, farmers themselves; their representative bodies; the industry; and the processing sector coming together along with the state agencies etc.

“That has achieved significantly for the agri-food sector over the last number of years and it is important that we bring together now all of the relevant stakeholders to begin to put together the strategy that’s fit for purpose for the next several years.”

Continuing, the minister said that the sector faces different challenges to the ones faced when the last strategy was being formed.

These, he said, include: Brexit; climate change; Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform; and a diverse range of emerging consumer trends.

Being aware of all that and pulling all those threads together over a period of time is what we’re beginning today.

In terms of opportunities that can be targeted by the policy, the minister said:

“We had very interesting presentations this morning from people with a global overview and one of the things that was referred to was the re-engineering of the protein supply market globally because of the global influence now of African swine fever (ASF).

“So that’s an opportunity and we stand in the department awaiting, hopefully, approval for additional plants to export other proteins other than pork to China and that will be a significant opportunity for us in the beef sector.”

The minister also added that a unique selling point for Ireland is the family farm structure, coupled with the grass-based production system, which he said “is something that we can use to the advantage of our beef sector and our agri-food sector generally”.

And then, the restructuring of the CAP post 2020; that’s going to move a little bit further down the line now in terms of the current CAP [which] will be rolled over.

“But reorienting the supports towards where they are most needed. I think everyone would acknowledge that our beef sector in particular is challenged income-wise and will need additional supports in that area,” the minister concluded.