The Irish dairy sector cannot rest on its laurels when it comes to sustainability, an industry seminar has heard.

Addressing Bord Bia’s second annual dairy seminar today (Wednesday, April 6), its CEO Tara McCarthy said that the board’s three-year strategy is aiming to grow the value of Irish dairy exports by almost half a billion euro.

She said that one of the key themes of the strategy will be differentiating Irish dairy produce from the rest of the world.

As part of this, the Bord Bia CEO outlined the need to clearly demonstrate and communicate Ireland’s sustainability credentials to a global customer base.

This will include focusing on the grass-fed system, sustainability, innovation and technical capabilities.

McCarthy explained that the industry will need to be equipped to robustly promote and, if needs be, defend itself by using verified science-based proof points.

“We need to be in a position to land the right message with the right target customers in the most efficient way possible to position Ireland strongly as an important source of dairy products and ingredients,” she outlined.

The Bord Bia CEO said that the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) standard will help the sector articulate its strengths and commitment to being a world-leading sustainable food system.

“However, we can’t rest on our laurels in this regard. Our competitors are working hard to erode our head start in sustainability.”

McCarthy said the industry needs to “further sharpen the tools” at its disposal to substantiate its standards.

Bord Bia will be developing a sustainable nutrition framework with industry this year to help promote consumption of dairy products.

McCarthy also pointed to the challenge of maintaining global customer relationships due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Bord Bia is planning to leverage new technologies to target new customers through “re-imagined channels”.