As the final day of the 81st National Ploughing Championships gets under way and the spotlight focuses on Ireland’s agricultural sector, Bord Bia is preparing to welcome almost 800 delegates, including 280 international food buyers from 25 countries, to its augural Global Sustainability Conference.
The conference, which will take place today at the Convention Centre Dublin, includes high-profile speakers from leading edge companies and organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund, the World Bank, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, Mars, Kerry Foods, Tesco and Nestlé.
The attending food buyers also represent some of the world’s key retail and foodservice operators including Carrefour, the world’s largest food retailer; Marks & Spencer; Chinese Dairy company Whaha and Spinneys, the leading premium supermarket in the Middle East and North Africa.
Themed ‘Our Food, Our Future: The Bottom Line’, the conference, which will be opened by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, is the centrepiece of a week-long business development and marketing drive by Bord Bia to further establish Ireland’s credentials as a leader in the global sustainability sphere.
Speaking in advance of the event, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD said: “Ireland is in a strong position to become a credible thought-leader within the sustainability debate because of our natural advantages and the existing perception of Ireland as a high quality supplier with robust sustainability credentials. This conference gives us the perfect platform to engage in meaningful conversation about what producing food more sustainably means. We will learn from the unique insights and experiences of major consumer brands, provoking discussion on how the Irish food and drink industry needs to evolve to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by sustainability.”
In June 2012, Bord Bia introduced an industry-wide voluntary sustainability programme entitled Origin Green. The programme sees Irish food and drink manufacturers develop a sustainability plan that sets out clear targets in key areas such as emissions, energy, waste, water, biodiversity and CSR activities.
To date more than 280 Irish food and drink companies, representing almost two-thirds of all exports, have registered with the programme and there are currently 23 fully verified members. Bord Bia estimates by the end of 2014, 75 per cent of Ireland’s food and drinks exports will be from Origin Green verified members.
In addition to the commitments made by Irish food and drink manufacturers, more than 35,000 Irish farms have participated in a sustainability assessment as part of Bord Bia’s beef quality assurance scheme. Auditors measure a range of elements from the length of the grazing season, fertiliser usage and animal growth rates to feeds and manure management. Bord Bia then provides each farm with individual feedback and an overall assessment of their performance to show farmers how they can further improve.
Bord Bia Chief Executive Aidan Cotter commented “while our quality assurance and sustainability schemes are ground-breaking in their breadth and depth, it is still challenging to break through the noise when it comes to sustainability. Ireland needs to clearly stand out from the crowd and create a voice for itself around sustainability. This is a journey that will take many years to achieve; however organising and hosting this Global Sustainability Conference is a notable starting point”.
During the international buyers’ stay in Ireland, Bord Bia is also using the occasion to provide them with an opportunity to experience first-hand the high standards and world-class quality of Ireland’s food, drink and farming industry.
Some 14 customised itineraries have been devised for dairy, meat, alcohol, livestock and seafood buyers from new and emerging export markets including Russia, Libya, United Emirates, India and China.
The itineraries will run throughout the week, involving farm and factory visits to in excess of 60 Irish food and drink companies, with an additional 50 companies involved in one to one buyer meetings.
This afternoon a group of Chinese pigmeat buyers will also visit the National Ploughing Championships, taking place in Ratheniska, Co Laois this week.
You can watch the live stream here.