This morning, President Michael D. Higgins’ State visit to the UK takes an agricultural turn. Accompanied by Mrs. Higgins, they will visit a Food Animal Initiative (FAI) farm based in Wytham, Oxford. The farm was nominated by Bord Bia on the basis of its innovative sustainability research.

During the visit, Bord Bia CEO Aidan Cotter will deliver a presentation to the President and UK government officials on the Irish food industry’s commitment to sustainability under its Origin Green programme. As part of the Origin Green programme, Bord Bia has carbon footprinted over 57,000 Irish farms, with an average of 600 farm audits taking place every week. Since its launch in 2012, some 324 Irish food and drink companies, representing over 85% of total exports, have registered their commitment to the programme.

Speaking ahead of today’s farm visit Aidan Cotter commented: “Origin Green is the world’s first sustainability programme to carbon footprint farms on what is in effect a national scale and doing so in a process of measurement, feedback and continuous improvement. By 2016, all Irish food and drink exports from farms and food businesses will have verified sustainability commitments ensuring the objective of Ireland becoming a world leader in sustainable food production.” The UK remains the largest export market for Irish food and drink, accounting for 42 per cent of exports, valued at €4.2 billion, in 2013. This is an increase of 8 per cent on the previous year and some €1 billion more than 2009 figures.

Last year, beef exports increased by €90 million to €1.12 billion, and dairy exports increased by €150 million to reach €1.1 billion. The UK accounts for 37% of Ireland’s total dairy exports. Other key export categories include prepared foods valued at €624million, beverages (€377 million) and pigmeat (€330 million). During the visit, the President and Mrs. Higgins will meet with Brigadier Nigel Mogg, Her Majesty’s Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, George Eustice MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Farming, Food and Marine Environment for DEFRA, Aidan Cotter and representatives from FAI.

In addition, four of Bord Bia’s Origin Green Ambassadors based in the UK market will attend the farm visit. A total of ten Ambassadors were recruited last year to build trade awareness and globally promote the Origin Green programme by establishing relationships, and deepening existing relations, with the world’s leading food and drink companies. The Ambassadors will be accompanied by senior representatives from their individual host companies – Marks & Spencer, McDonalds, PepsiCo and Tesco UK.