Ireland won’t feed the world and has no ambition to, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney.

Speaking last night at the RDS/Teagasc Lecture Series in the Mansion House, he said that feeding a growing global population in a sustainable way is a topic he has become passionate about during his three years as Minster for Agriculture.

He said that Ireland used to produce the same volume of milk as New Zealand and while we have begun our journey to expand in dairy production, our journey will be different to that of New Zealand over the past 20 years. “Now we know the real challenges.” The challenge is to keep pace with population growth and consumption demand, he said, while using less energy. Some 70% of the world’s water is used in agriculture through irrigation, he said, and this encompasses part of the problem. “The challenge here is to find a way to produce 50% more food in less than three decades while using less water and energy.”

He went on to say that there are multiple solutions, including more targeted consumption and reducing waste. “There needs to be a relentless focus on technology and change especially on educating a planet on how to produce food more efficiently. And we have to be able to measure it.”

Ireland, he said, will always be, in relative terms, a small player, but we will produce a premium product that consumers will be prepared to pay a premium for.

“We have the innovation and knowledge and leadership on how this can be done.”