‘There should be a review of Food Wise 2025’

There should be a review of Food Wise 2025 so the country does not sleepwalk farmers into incurring additional capital investment to achieve targets, which could result in loss-making scenarios, according to Labour TD Willie Penrose.

Speaking in the Dail last week, he asked the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed on his views on whether farmers should be encouraged to expand production substantially to hit Food Wise 2025 targets when uncertainty reigns due to Brexit.

Penrose said that the UK is Ireland’s largest customer for food and drink and that exports were valued at €4.4 billion in 2015.

“The UK takes approximately 40% of our food and drink exports. There has been strong growth in non-EU markets in recent years but the UK remains our main market, with the value of this trade increasing by more than €1 billion. Clearly, Brexit will have an important impact on targets.

“There should be a review of Food Wise 2025 in order that we do not sleepwalk farmers and ourselves into incurring additional capital investment to achieve targets, which could result in loss-making scenarios.

“In other words, the head would not be worth a wash. Surely it must be the essence of prudence to review matters by way of evaluating alternative scenarios that might emerge in order that the farming public might be fully advised.”

Meanwhile, under CAP, Ireland gets €1.2 billion and Brexit will have a huge impact on this, according to Penrose.

“I have been on about this for a long time. What countries will fill the €10 billion hole in the CAP budget when the UK leaves?

“We had better be straight with farmers and say that Brexit will have an impact on CAP payments now.”

The Minister should not fiddle around and pretend that something will not happen when it is clear that it will happen.

In response, the Minister said that Deputy Penrose’s argument seems to be predicated on the fact that the UK decision to leave the EU means we will lose a market for 43% of our exports.

“It will undoubtedly be challenged and this is why, for example, I have visited the UK twice to meet major multiples that buy substantial volumes of our exports.

“Food Wise 2025 is not the Department’s blueprint; it is the industry’s blueprint for itself.

“There is a high-level implementation committee and the Brexit decision has been placed on the agenda for every one of its meetings. We are, therefore, not burying our heads in the sand.”

The Minister said that part of the strategy is to copperfasten Ireland’s foothold in the UK market and part is to examine other market opportunities.

“There is no silver bullet or single policy option. Farmers are prudent. They will make the appropriate investment decisions themselves based on what they perceive to be the macro circumstances in which they operate.”