The recent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) could have done more to improve the competitiveness of Irish agriculture on world markets. This is according to Professor Alan Renwick who spoke to AgriLand on the challenges Irish agriculture faces.

“I feel supports should be given more to delivering the things we want from agriculture. There has been some movement in terms of redistribution. But the reforms really have kept the status quo.”

He explained: “There are some good elements to the reform. There are great things in Pillar 2. But unfortunately there is relatively little money for them. For me there is little in the reform driving improvements in our competitiveness on world markets. What are we getting in terms of farmers wanting to help themselves? Programmes such as Beef Technology Adoption Programme and the genomics have great potential, but the funding is not sufficient.”

Prof Renwick also said there is little discussion in Ireland on environmental concerns compared to other countries.“Do we need to be a little more cautious with our expansion targets?” he questioned.

Citing Scotland as an example, he said: “Compared to the Scots there is much less discussion on the role of environment in agriculture. Few in the sector question what the environmental impact of policy reforms will be.

“In Ireland the business of farming is far more important. Here the question is how the policy reform will impact on farms and farming. There may be a pre-conception here that agriculture in Ireland has little impact on the environment. We take it for granted that our farming practices are environmental friendly.”

Prof Renwick noted: “We are putting a lot of weight in terms of marketing on our green image. We need to be careful that expansion is sustainable and we don’t damage that competitive advantage. The environment is one of Ireland’s marketing strengths and we need to protect it. It is not anti-farming to bear that in mind.”

He also added: “Climate change is another area that gets little attention among the farming community in Ireland. Yet we are seeing the effects of it in events such as that Fodder Crisis and recent floods. We need to think about how we will build resistance to these issues. We need to start a discussion on how we will grow while protecting against these challenges.”

Prof Renwick also said: “CAP Reform did not address key trade market problems. It is concentrated on policy and environment but market issues are important.”

He singled out the beef market in Ireland as an example: “There are real challenges in the beef market in Ireland. The beef sector underpins a huge industry in the country. Is it sustainable that we continue to support a sector to this extent?”

He stressed: “There needs to be value flowing through the supplies chain, so that those at the bottom can survive. The beef industry is very fragile in Ireland, due to low returns. When we see farmers protesting outside factories it suggests we have a supply chain that is not working. There needs to be a discussion on what can be done to improve the market structure.”

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