Speaking at today’s conference on the Food Wise 2025 strategy for the agri-food sector, IFA president Joe Healy said the achievement of the 2025 targets would be very dependent on what happens in Brexit talks over the coming days.

Healy, a panellist at today’s conference, said: “This strategy and the targets it sets were agreed prior to Brexit. The outcome of Brexit will define the future of Irish farming and the agriculture sector.

“The future of the entire agriculture sector to 2025 and beyond is at stake. The government needs to hold the line and work to achieve a solution where the whole of the UK stays in the single market and the customs union or a similar arrangement,” he said.

The president told delegates at the conference that there are already huge issues at farm level where livestock and tillage farmers, in particular, are going through a very tough time.

Healy said that despite ambitious targets for growth jobs and exports in the strategy, it includes no explicit targets for improvements in profitability or even viability at farm level.

“Agriculture is our most successful indigenous sector and it is built on the back of farmers. Yet livestock and tillage farmers, in particular, are really struggling. If we don’t address income levels there is a real risk that the raw materials needed to achieve Food Wise 2025 targets will not be there,” he said.

Healy said farm incomes across many sectors remain far too low, with the average being just €24,000; a third of farms in Ireland are still classified as vulnerable.

“All stakeholders in the agri-food sector need to face the reality that if one element of the food supply chain is vulnerable, the achievement of the overall strategy is at serious risk. It is in the interests of all in the industry that farmers receive a fair return,” Healy concluded.