ASA reveals biggest industry challenges ahead of today’s conference

Brexit and sustainability are the two biggest challenges facing the agricultural industry today, according to a survey of professionals working within Ireland’s agri-food sector.

These were the findings from the Agricultural Science Association’s (ASA) annual survey of members, the results of which were released in advance of the ASA Conference – ‘From Trade Wars to Consumer Trust: The Challenge for Agri-Food’ – which takes place in the Killashee Hotel in Naas, Co. Kildare today (Friday, September 6).

Today’s conference will welcome more than 300 delegates and feature a keynote address from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, Ted McKinney.

McKinney is responsible for the development and implementation of the department’s trade policy, facilitating foreign market access and promoting opportunities for US agriculture through various trade programs and high-level government negotiations.

ASA survey

When asked about the biggest challenge for the agri-food industry over the next 10 years, respondents were equally as concerned about the impact of Brexit (37%) as the challenge of meeting sustainability targets (36%).

The concerns about the fall-out from Brexit were consistent with last year’s results, up just one percentage point from 36% in 2017.

However, there was a marked increase in the level of concern around how the industry will deal with the environmental regulations associated with meeting sustainability targets, up 11 percentage points from 25% in 2017.

In addressing other challenges faced by the industry, 76% of respondents said that they were concerned that anti-agriculture consumer movements will have a long-term negative impact on the farming and food industry. When asked about the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), 46% said that the current CAP was not fit for purpose – with a further 31% unsure.

Brexit

On the fall-out from Brexit, ASA members listed a number of issues as ‘very concerning’. These included: the introduction of a hard border (56%); disruption of integrated supply chains (49%); trade tariffs (47%); increased competition in the UK market (35%); and non-tariff barriers, e.g. divergence in UK regulations and product standards (32%).

CAP

In relation to the CAP , a significant lack of comprehension about the new draft legislative proposals is apparent – with almost half (48%) ‘Not Sure’ if they were a move in the right direction.

35% of respondents believe that they are a move in the right direction however. On specific aspects of the CAP 2020 proposals, 70% of members believe that greater subsidiarity (more decision-making power by individual member states) is a positive and 72% agree on the inclusion of risk management tools.

Some other key points from the 2018 survey included:
  • 90% said that they would encourage graduates to pursue a career in the industry;
  • 47% of self-employed professionals have had a salary increase in the last 12 months, up from 30% in 2017;
  • 67% of self-employed professionals invested in some form of training or professional development in the last 12 months;
  • 60% of those in paid employment received some form of external training paid for by their employer in the last 12 months;
  • 50% of graduates surveyed would be interested in pursuing a career in research within the sector.

Derrie Dillon, ASA president, said: “It is really encouraging to see that the industry is continuing to invest in training and upskilling its professionals, which is key to our continued competitiveness on the world stage.

It is also promising to see our graduate members express such a strong interest in pursuing careers in research, which is fundamental to the continued growth of the sector.

“It is our people that make us leaders in agri-food and building the human capital of this generation and the next is instrumental to the continuing transformation of our industry.”

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