Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon told delegates attending today’s Irish Co-operative Society (ICOS) national conference that the Irish food sector must not take for granted that future profitable growth will be secured as a matter of course.

“A strong work ethic will be required moving forward,” she stressed.

“Sitting on our laurels and working on the basis the Irish food sector has a divine right to future success is a recipe for total disaster. To paraphrase a strap line used by an Irish I would concur with the idea that a lot of good work has been done – but more to do.”

The Enterprise Ireland representative went on to confirm that Irish food industry turnover increased from €7bn in 2009 up to €9bn in 20012.

“The agri-food industry currently accounts for 50 per cent plus of all Irish exports with the industry generating 145,000 full-time jobs.”

Looking to the future Sinnamon explained the need for a number of factors to be addressed, if the Irish food sector is to have a sustainable future. These include the drivers of innovation, excellence in marketing and securing the wherewithal to fund the growth that can be secured by the industry over the coming years.

“Excellence in science will help deliver the new products and services that will be demanded by consumers in countries around the world. And, in this regard, significant progress has been made by a number of leading food processors. But, again, we must build on this for the future.

“The food industry must also join forces to ensure that a strong marketing message is communicated to customers on international markets. But we must work together in order to deliver the win:win scenario, which everyone wants to secure for the Irish food sector.

“And collaboration does not mean acquisition, as would have been the case in the past. There are tremendous opportunities moving forward for our food processing business to pool their resources in a purely co-operative manner . This will help the organisations involved secure future business growth while, at the same time, retaining their respective independence.”

ICOS delegates were also told that the Irish food industry already enjoyed a leading reputation in terms of delivering a sustainable food supply chain, allied to traceability procedures of a similar standard.

“And again we must build on all of this for the future. Red tape isn’t all bad news! The reality is that consumers around the world want to know the exact origin and provenance of the food they are eating,” Sinnamon concluded.

Pictured Julie Sinnamon, CEO Enterprise Ireland