Courtesy of his presentation to today’s Agricultural Science Association conference in Waterford, ABP chief executive officer Paul Finnerty confirmed his optimism for the Irish beef industry moving forward. And, in his opening remarks, asserted that the growth opportunities for the food industry as a whole are equally positive.
“We will have another one billion or two people on the planet over the next 25 years,” he explained.
“So what? Well between 1700 and 1961 the population of our planet increased fivefold. But so too did cropland. From 1962 to 1991 the population grew by a further 80 per cent, or by two billion people. But cropland only increased by eight per cent. The commensurate increase in food output came from a green revolution, centred on the use of nitrogen based fertilisers and higher yielding crop varieties. But with yield advances levelling off the pressure now is really on.
“This pressure is augmented by global warming with many parts of the world under increasing pressure to produce the food it requires, all of which is good news for Food Ireland plc.”
He continued: “In any discussion about almost anything these days China looms large. In that country they consume less than 5 kilos of beef per person against 20 kilos in Western Europe and 35 kilos in the US. If China’s 5 kilo figure went to 10 kilos the tonnages of additional beef required would account for all of Brazil’s exports.”
The ABP representative went onto point out that all of this is extremely positive for the Irish beef sector. “And it starts -and ends with what we have been gifted by nature. Grass! This is our competitive advantage,” Finnerty stressed.
“But an even more stark example is that of water usage and conservation. The reality is that here in Ireland we have no meaningful water foot print problem. And, this again, is a tremendous advantage that we enjoy!”
Finnerty went on to tell conference delegates that grass fed diets have been shown to increase the concentrations of O3 to O6 fatty acids in beef.
“This ratio is nine times nutritionally more advantageous than that achieved from cereal based systems,” he commented.
“The human nutritional benefit of grass-based produce is an issue that, as an industry, we must do so much more to advance…and quickly.”
The ABP ceo concluded: “These are times of great opportunity for the Irish food industry. The global challenges of population growth, climate change, water scarcity and nutrition – all play to our competitive advantage. We also have exciting near term scientific developments in the area of sexed semen allowing for a genetic and science based approach to how our beef and dairy industries make progress together.”
Main image, the ASA Conference room
Pictured below at the announcement of the ASA Conference 2013 were, from left: Paul Finnerty, chief executive ABP Food Group, one of the conference speakers, ASA President Peter Bolger and Andrew Langford, chief executive FBD, conference partner.
This story was updated at 9.21pm with photographs, Main photograph courtesy Jack Caffery