Take a look at some of the food produced by the Irish tillage sector

In Ireland, the majority of the tillage crops produced are used for animal feed, but food-grade crops are becoming more common and more markets are opening up for Irish cereal products.

The opportunity to provide grain to the food and drinks sector is important as these grains can often provide a premium price for growers over feed crops and also reduce the level of feed grains in the market.

Oats, potatoes and oilseed rape are the main food-producing crops at present, but there is potential for a return to Irish wheat to produce flour.

Oats

According to the Crops 2030 report, approximately 48,000t of food-grade oats are produced in Ireland each year. An estimated 10,000t of these oats are exported.

The report also outlined that domestic oat consumption is projected to increase by 8% between 2019 and 2025.

One opportunity in the oats sector is oat drinks. Flahavan’s recently launched its own range of oat drinks as consumers look for dairy alternatives.

Potatoes

Approximately 450 Irish potato farmers produce an estimated 400,000t of potatoes each year. The area planted to potatoes has remained at approximately 8,000ha in recent years.

Each year an estimated 70,000t to 80,000t of potatoes are imported into this country, but the Crops 2030 report states that by 2030 it is possible that more than 75% of these imports could be grown domestically.

Rapeseed oil

Rapeseed oil is one area which has the potential to grow massively. Currently, Ireland produces approximately 320,000L of cold-pressed rapeseed oil.

However, this is not nearly meeting market demand and the potential market was estimated at 2.5 million litres per year in the report.

At present, the retail value of Irish cold-pressed rapeseed oil is €5 million, but the potential retail value is €34.6 million.

The food-service sector uses an estimated 9.7 million litres of food-grade oil each year – consisting of oils like vegetable or sunflower oil.

Milling wheat/flour

This is one area where Irish wheat has basically left the market. This country imports approximately 210,000t of flour each year and produces only a small amount of flour from Irish wheat – mostly organic or artisan.

Opportunities

The report stated that there are opportunities for growth in these markets, as consumers increasingly look at food’s taste and health benefits, as well as its provenance and food quality.

The report also highlighted the need for greater food security on the island, while stating that if export markets are to grow, support will be required.

The impact of Covid-19 on market volatility, combined with Brexit market risks, highlight the need for greater food security.

“Markets exist for conventionally and organic grown produce, but mostly for the home market. Substantial export markets can be exploited but this requires support.”

The report suggested: “The industry should work with Bord Bia and other stakeholders to develop a national approach [and support] to increase the use of Irish grown products [cereal foods, oats, cold-pressed rapeseed oil, etc.] and to develop novel plant-based products where the provenance and branding is based on Irish production, and to market these nationally and internationally.”