Minister emphasises the importance of technology in meeting production goals

How we can produce more from less? We need to use technology, innovation and collaboration between a science-based view towards food production and traditional farming methods.

This is according to Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, speaking yesterday at Keenan’s Agri-Business Conference, where it was celebrating 30 years in business.

“From an Irish point of view the recent negotiations around the Common Agricultural Policy was about asking ourselves honest and hard questions as to how agriculture fits in to the global challenges of food security, climate change, energy security, efficient land use. So that we maximise the natural resource that we have,” he said.

He continued: “What we now have is policy at a European level as well as budgetary certainty around the supports governments will have to support food production for the next seven years.”

“We need to use that certainty to do what we currently are doing an awful lot better,” he stressed.

The most important industry in Ireland is the agri-food industry, the minister said.

“We have seen in the past four years in the midst of Recession in many countries across the EU our clients we have seen a 40 per cent growth in value terms in food and drink exports.”

He added: “There are an extra 150 million people moving into the middle class every year globally. These people are demanding a change in diets. That means red meat, seafood and dairy products. It means what we produce in Europe better than anywhere else will be in Increasing demand.”

“This demand will provide extraordinary opportunities for business in terms of food output but also extraordinary political challenges if we fail to meet that demand.”

He noted: “We need to do this at the same time while reducing emission from the food and drink sector, which makes up 28 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions and in order to limit the effects of climate change which is already happening.

“In some ways this can be seen as an impossible challenge, a challenge that can only be taken on and one if we use technology, science and research and new ways of doing things.”

In conclusion, the minister said: “Can we produce 40 per cent more milk form an animal while reducing by 30 per cent that amount of concentrates the animal consumes? People like Gerald Keenan says yes we can.”

Keenan System’s three-day 30-year celebration event started yesterday. Entitled ‘Powering Profitable Food Production through Innovation and Collaboration’, the industry conference in the Citywest Hotel in Dublin heard from other guest speakers including Prof Bob Jolly of Iowa State University, Dan O’Donoghue of Dairygold Co-op, Pat Burke of Grant Thornton, Richard Keegan of Enterprise Ireland among others.

Over the course the event, research trips to Greenmount Campus in Antrim, the Teagasc research centre in Moorepark and a selection of visits to top-class livestock farms in Leinster, Munster and Ulster will also take place. In addition, visitors will be shown around the Keenan world-class manufacturing facilities at Borris, Co Carlow.