“If we make claims about being the best, we have to prove it.” This is according to Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, who was speaking at the launch of Bord Bia’s Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme in Dublin this afternoon.

“There is no other country in the world proposing the type of partnership we are constructing at the moment. What we are planning for is the most dramatic expansion and growth of the dairy sector that we have ever seen. Between 2015 and 2020 Ireland will be the fastest-growing dairy producer in the world.

“As we plan for volume expansion and adding value to produce premium products here in Ireland to export around the world, the very foundations of that plan has to be on dairy quality and sustainability and on the proof around that.”

The minister continued: “We have agreement that in the near future all of those farmers will sign up to a sustainable quality assurance scheme. That is of course voluntary but in my view it will become in a real sense mandatory over a short period of time. Not only are we making claims around the world, not only do we talk about Ireland being a green Island producing on the back of a grass-based system safe, sustainable, quality dairy products, but actually we have that data and the auditing to prove that,” he added.

“Big buyers of Irish food from a business-to-business point of view will demand proof sustainability. So they can say to their customers that they are sourcing food in a responsible way.”

On the general goodwill towards the scheme from industry stakeholders such as the ICMSA and the Irish Dairy Board, the minister stressed the “extraordinary partnerships in this country in the area of agri-food”.

“The industry has sat down on many occasions and looked at what exactly we need how we will fund it what is fairest way to do that. How can we design a scheme that recognises the practicalities of farming in Ireland.”

On concerns among farmers on the rollout of this scheme, he said: “There has been concern among farmers that those who don’t meet the standard will become outcasts at being able to find an outlet for their product. I think all of those things have been worked through and we have assurance now that for farmers this is sort of a continuous assessment process. It is helping farmers to be better at what they do in terms of running their businesses as well as providing proof of sustainability in how they do it.”

In conclusion the minister said: “There’s no point in producing something that there isn’t demand for. We are in the premium business here in terms of the dairy products we produce.”

Pictured at the launch this afternoon, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney

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