The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has concluded the first stage of a North American trade mission.

Over the last few days, the minister spoke at a high profile Enterprise Ireland event in Chicago and launched Bord Bia’s ‘Spirit of Ireland’ spirits promotion in Columbus Ohio, before meeting the key US Government players in agricultural policy in Washington DC.

Yesterday (Thursday, April 28) Minister McConalogue opened a seminar co-hosted by the Embassy of Ireland and the World Bank in DC, on the topic ‘Sustainable Food Systems: Nourishing the global population; Meeting climate targets; and Responding to the new context arising from the Ukraine crisis’.

Minister McConalogue reflected on the Ukraine crisis, reiterating the Irish Government’s condemnation of he said is illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine; solidarity with the people of Ukraine; and support for the strongest possible sanctions against Russia.

Sustainable Food Systems

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConlaogue addressing a joint seminar hosted by the World Bank in Washington DC. Image: Marty Katz

On Sustainable Food Systems, Minister McConalogue said: “The Ukraine crisis has impacted global food supply chains in multiple ways, creating significant risks in terms of food security and market disturbance.

“Some might argue that this should mean that we should prioritise security of food supply, if necessary at the expense of the environment.

“However, my view is that, now more than ever, politicians and policy makers must work together to ensure that we have safe, healthy and nutritious food for our expanding global population, while protecting our shared planet.

“Climate action, biodiversity and environmental protection are absolutely vital to our future food security,” the minister added.

He explained that Ireland has long been a pioneer in sustainable food production, with farmers, fisherman and processors committed to safe food excellence. 

The minister reference the Food Vision 2030 strategy which he said was developed through a stakeholder-led process, using a food systems approach, which recognises the interconnections between policies for food, health, environment and climate.

Food systems

“Ireland is fully committed to ensuring that last year’s UN  Food Systems Summit should lead to positive change in our global food systems,” McConalogue added.

“We are working with UN partners to ensure that supports are in place for countries in the developing world to devise and implement their own pathways.”

“Origin Green – which I believe is the world’s first national sustainability programme – already measures the footprint of our farming and food production, and feeds back practical advice on how to improve sustainability,” he added.

The agriculture minister stressed that in the face of conflict and war, countries around the world need to work together to ensure that global trade remains open, and supply chains continue to operate, so that the food security impacts on the most vulnerable can be addressed.

The seminar was also addressed by Tom Arnold, who chaired the Food Vision 2030 process and is now Ireland’s Special Envoy on Food Systems, and by Tara McCarthy, CEO, Bord Bia.

Arnold said: “Ireland’s commitment to be a leader in sustainable food systems has implications for our domestic and foreign policy. 

“Domestically, we must deliver on Food Vision 2030; in our foreign policy, we must partner with developing countries, particularly in Africa, in their journey to sustainable food systems.”

Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy said: “Sustainability is the ‘green thread’ that runs right through Bord Bia’s new three-year strategy, in line with the wider policy ambitions set out in Food Vision 2030.

“This ‘green thread’ will contribute to the significant expansion in the value-growth of Irish food and drink exports worldwide, while also strengthening Ireland’s supports and standards to reflect the high level of ambition required to meet both environmental challenges and market demands. 

“As highlighted in Food Vision 2030, Origin Green has been instrumental in monitoring and driving improvements in environmental sustainability and demonstrating this to trade customers and consumers, both at home and abroad,” she added.

Trade mission

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Martin Heydon will continue the next stage of this North America trade mission, which involved engagements in Texas before moving on to Mexico.