The growth in the global demand for food, combined with shifting dietary habits towards more protein based foods and dairy products, is relentless, Bord Bia Chief Executive Aidan Cotter told the National Dairy Conference.

Speaking at the National Dairy Conference in Dublin, he said that it is being driven by a population growing at 75 million people a year and double that number joining the middle classes.

“This means that over the next ten years a market three times the size of the EU, in buying power terms, is being created, principally in Asia but also Africa, now home to more than three quarters of the world’s population. With 40% of its exports already destined for international markets, principally to these regions, as our dairy industry expands it is well positioned to benefit from the sustained growth in demand for dairy products.”

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney said Ireland is on the cusp of the most fundamental change to Irish agriculture in a generation. “Since 1984, the industry has operated within a quota environment. The shackles come off next April and following that we will have an exciting mix of opportunity and challenge for all stakeholders; farmers and rural Ireland, processors and manufacturers, agri-business and exporters. It is timely that we take stock of where we stand in terms of our preparedness for this new era.”

He also told the Dairy Conference that Irish eyes are on the prizes and they have been for a number of years now; growth in output, growth in exports, job creation in rural Ireland. “It is appropriate that we explore the challenges and opportunities this once in a generation policy change will bring. There will be challenges but I am confident that the Irish dairy sector is well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.”