Climate-change policies should not lead to a reduction in food supply in Europe, and a change of mindset around such policies is now needed, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Tim Cullinan has said.

Speaking on this evening’s episode of Farmland (Tuesday, March 15), he said the outbreak of war in Ukraine has made more people connect food consumption to food production as the security of our food-supply chain is called into question.

But it is crucial that this consumption-production connection remains on people’s minds.

He explained:

“Food has been devalued. The consumer spends now approximately 10% of their income on food. Go back 20 years ago and that was 30%. We need to look at the policies that are coming forward around this.”

The connection between food production and supply in relation to climate change has been drawn, but the policies created around it don’t always make sense, Cullinan added.

“We had the Green Deal, Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies. All the policies in this are about less food production. It’s about reduction, reduction, reduction and, clearly, we have to re-evaluate this policy now,” he said.

Cullinan warned that as the global population grows, so too will the demand for food.

That food can either come from Ireland and the rest of Europe, where high-quality food is produced efficiently in a climate that is conducive to such production, or it can come from nations around the world that are less climate efficient, he said.

“Why would we be going with policies now to have less food production when we’re definitely going to need more? The world population is growing.

“If we don’t produce it in Europe, because we’re all cognisant of climate change and the role we have to play in that, it is very clear that it’s going to be produced in a nation that’s far less climate efficient,” the IFA president said.

If that were the case, according to Cullinan, while the EU may meet its targets as set out in the Climate Action Plan, the overall climate-change impacts may not be mitigated effectively.

The IFA president said he appreciates that the EU must play its part in lowering emissions, and he highlighted the work that farmers have already done to meet these targets.

“Farmers have done quite a lot around climate change already but what’s important is that we’re looking at reducing emissions, not animals. And we’re doing that [reducing emissions].

“There’s excellent research going on – already, it has been proven that the higher-yielding animals are producing less methane and we have other trials around feed additives as well.

“We will crack it but we need time around this,” he said.