Irish agriculture must adopt five key strategic directions to ensure a viable sector in the future, a new think tank has said.

The Agri-Food Strategy Group, which released a report ‘Opportunities for sustainably competitive Irish agriculture’, has identified five key strategic directions for Irish agriculture.

  1. Better as well as bigger. Improved farm productivity is a primary imperative in the future development of an agriculture that is internationally competitive and sustainable.
  2. Financial sustainability. Proper financial planning and management of the substantial investment involved in expanding farming and food production is a prerequisite in coping with continued price volatility.
  3. Food chain integration. Closer alignment of food production, processing and marketing is required in overcoming prevailing deficiencies and the sharing of risks and rewards.
  4. Environmental resilience. Realisation of opportunities to expand food production while continuing to protect and benefit from Ireland’s environmental advantages and, in particular, to realise the potential of dairy production without significantly adding to greenhouse gas emissions.
  5. Enhanced agri-food education and training. To address the opportunities and challenges arising that Irish agriculture faces, there is pressing urgency to re-appraise the future direction of education and training systems with priority being given to raising the technical awareness and financial capabilities of all involved in farming and the agri-food sector.

The group includes the former Director of Teagasc Liam Downey, Tom Arnold, DG of the Institute of European and International Affairs, Gerard Keenan, Keenan Systems, and Professor Paddy Wall, Public Health and Food Safety, UCD.

Addressing the launch of the group’s report on Irish agriculture the EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said that income for farmers must remain a priority and that financial instruments are being looked at and developed at European level to ensure this.

He said that farmers remain the weakest link in the food chain and that stronger action is needed to empower smaller individuals, such as farmers, in the food chain.