Boyle points to a sustainable future for agri food in Ireland

The drive for growth within Ireland’s agri-food industry is fully compatible with the objective of maintaining a sustainable farming industry, according to Teagasc Director Professor Gerry Boyle.

He expressed these views at the recent Agenda NI Annual Conference, held in Co. Antrim.

“The Harvest 2020 process has helped galvanise the entire agri food sector. A key outworking of this exercise was the recognition that agriculture can play a vital role at the very heart of the Irish economy. The process has also helped identify the role for farming and food as a career path for young people,” he said.

“We have also seen the active implementation of Harvest 2020. And this is making a real difference at a national level. Too often in the past we have seen reports and strategies developed for the farming and food industries, which have been subsequently relegated to the book shelves.

“Thankfully, this has not been the case with Harvest 2020, which is about to be superseded by an updated strategy taking us through to 2025.”

Addressing the specific challenges now confronting the dairy sector, Professor Boyle made it clear that innovation must be a key driver for that industry.

“The one problem that we have in this regard is the lack of scale within the processing sector. This reflects the competition that exists at individual co-op level. A number of processors are currently working with Teagasc to address the challenge of innovation. But this works is still at an early stage.”

The Teagasc representative admitted that the dairy sector will have to cope with a period of low market returns for the first half of 2015.

“Securing changes to the current intervention support measures is one response option to the challenges that lie ahead,” he said.

“But I remain extremely positive regarding the medium to long term prospects for dairy in Ireland. Grazed grass will remain our most valuable asset and we must strive to improve milk production levels from our grassland areas during the period ahead.”