Origins of Food Wise 2025

Launched in 2015 and succeeding Food Harvest 2020, Food Wise 2025 is a growth vision for the Irish agricultural economy for the next decade.

Although it’s not yet 2020, Food Harvest 2020  has effectively been updated and re-focused, as that is what can and ought to happen every few years during such long-term departmental strategies.

Food Harvest 2020’s own origins lay in the 2004 Department of Agriculture document, the Agri Vision 2015 Report. In 2010, given the evolving challenges and opportunities of the sector, it was felt necessary to renew the strategy to formulate Food Harvest 2020.

Likewise, in 2015 it was, in turn, renewed to become Food Wise 2025. No doubt, in 2020 we will scrolling through the strategy’s most recent incarnation.

Crucially, like Food Harvest 2020, Food Wise 2025 has been informed by a committee of industry stakeholders (list of committee members set-out at base of article) and is a merely a statement of intent – not any legally binding document, or quasi-constitutional framework.

Think of it as a 108-page mission statement, or a decade-long road map, the year-to-year directions for which will never be committed to ink: that is left for the stakeholder to complete. In other words, it points the way but won’t micro-manage.

The following articulates the vision of Food Wise 2025 as set out by the Department in 2015.


What’s the point of Food Wise 2025?

Agri-food is Ireland’s oldest and largest indigenous industry, deeply embedded in the landscape, history and personality of the country.

The sector uses more domestic inputs than any other sector of the economy. As farmers and food businesses supply their goods and services, their actions add to the common good in a myriad of ways.

Agri-food is now firmly positioned at the heart of Ireland’s continued economic recovery. This dual aspect of the industry – its distinctive contribution to local economies and its growing international footprint – is underlined by the fact that net foreign earnings generated from agri-food exports are greater than non agri-food sectors of the economy.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food Wise 2025 represents “the shared voice of an industry striving to create a business and regulatory environment in which extensive growth opportunities can be fully capitalised on, while building on the progress achieved under Food Harvest 2020.”

What Are The Objectives of Food Wise 2025?

A guiding principle that Food Wise 2025 will seek to embed at all levels of the agri-food industry is that environmental protection and economic competitiveness are equal and complementary: one will not be achieved at the expense of the other.

While that may strike some in the agri sector as a tall order, its nonetheless a laudable aspiration that has significant, long-term, commercial implications, aside from the more obvious environmental and ethical ones: the first-world, 21st Century consumer increasingly cares how their food is produced.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food Wise 2025 also recognises that the three pillars of sustainability – social, economic and environmental – are equally important and carry commensurate weight.

On the basis of available data, as of 2015 the Food Wise 2025 Committee believed that the following growth projections are achievable by 2025:

  • Increasing the value of agri-food exports by 85% to €19 billion.
  • Increasing the value added in the agri-food, fisheries and wood products sector by 70%
    to more than €13 billion.
  • Increasing the value of primary production by 65% to almost €10 billion.
  • The creation of an additional 23,000 direct jobs in the agri-food sector along the supply
    chain, from primary production to high value added product development.

To achieve these objectives, Food Wise 2025 identifies over 350 recommendations to achieve sustainable growth, which will require a concerted and coordinated approach by primary producers, industry, Departments and State agencies.


How Can This Be Achieved?

Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) are central to maintaining competitiveness in the long-term for Irish agriculture.

As the Department of Agriculture makes clear, to fulfil the diverse demands of global markets, the Irish agri-food sector must better understand the specific needs and requirements of consumers in specific markets.

The impressive export growth achieved by the agri-food sector since 2010 will continue to demand concerted efforts to improve competitiveness and productivity.

Crucially, Food Wise 2025 stresses the need for ongoing improvements at producer and processing levels.

At producer level it should be clear that future profitability and viability will be driven by productivity improvements through the adoption and application of cutting-edge sustainable processes and technologies.

At processing level the industry must manage its cost base and adopt new processes that will drive efficiencies and maintain competitiveness on the domestic and international markets.

Food Wise 2025 has identified some challenges faced by the sector in relation to RDI, which centre on gaps that exists:

  1. Between translating research into commercial products
  2. On the capacity within the sector, both at producer and company levels, to absorb new research and innovation

In particular, Food Wise 2025 highlights the need for:

  • The attraction, retention and development of talent right along the supply chain, supported by training that will foster the necessary technical and entrepreneurial skill sets.
  • A greater focus on market development that is consumer-insight driven to ensure Irish products are targeted at the right markets and the right segments within those markets.
  • Productivity improvements that are driven by innovation and the adoption of the latest technologies.
  • Value addition to sustainably-produced primary materials, which will support local employment growth, ensure the viability of local producers and protect the environment and natural resources.


Sustainability:the buzz word of our times never strays far from Food Wise 2025’s raison d’Etre.

Put it this way: through its farmers, fishermen and forestry owners, Ireland’s agri-food sector manages the vast majority of the nation’s natural resources. This places the sector in a unique position of delivering many public goods and social benefits which contribute to the well-being of the country.

However, Ireland faces significant challenges in meeting some national and international environmental targets for air quality, biodiversity and water quality, and agriculture has a key role to play in contributing to meeting these targets.

Meeting Greenhouse Gas and ammonia emission reduction targets will be particularly challenging, but arresting biodiversity losses and continuing the improvement of water quality while increasing production will be equally demanding.

In order to help address these immense challenges, the Department commissioned an Environmental Analysis, incorporating a Strategic Environmental Assessment and an Appropriate Assessment, which has helped inform the 2025 report.

Agricultural Growth Opportunities

Food Wise 2025 identifies strengths, opportunities, weakness and threats of different sectors in Ireland’s agri-food and primary industries.

As of its 2015 document, Food Wise 2025 is strong on identifying areas of growth opportunities in the wider agricultural sector but often reverts to generalities and mission statements, rather than concrete, specific targets.

Dairy Sector


Food Wise 2025’s dairy sector growth opportunities are light on data and deliverables.Understandable for a statement of intent, there is no mention of what happens to such a sector – and its effect on Food Wise 2025 – when the cost of production exceeds the price farmers get for their milk.

However, among many salient points it identifies priority actions for the dairy sector as being:

  1. Driving on-farm competitiveness
  2. Managing price volatility
  3. Environment and sustainability
  4. Furthering our reputation on international markets
  5. Added value through research and innovation

The actions required for the dairy sector include:

  • All milk producers should be strongly encouraged to carry out grass measurement
  • Strategies should be developed to increase the fertility of Irish grassland soils
  • Dairy farmers should set a target of increasing grass utilisation to 10 tonnes/ha
  • Continue to leverage the benefits of genomic technology to help maintain the rate of genetic improvement in the dairy sector to maximise resource use efficiency and lower emissions
  • Industry stakeholders need to ensure that sexed semen continues to be rolled out to Irish dairy farmers and that continued research in the technology is undertaken

Beef Sector

beef cattle a

Objectives for the sector include:

  • Driving on-farm competitiveness
  • Enhanced supply chain interaction and information flows
  • Furthering our reputation on international markets
  • Adding value through R&D
  • Environment and sustainability

Actions required for the beef sector include:

  • Increase fertility levels and decrease calving intervals in suckler herds
  • Facilitate all aspects of the Beef Health Check programme, including batch-level, herd-level and geographic reporting
  • Facilitate the further development of resources and information to encourage livestock producers to place an economic value on the biosecurity of their holdings
  • Leverage the benefits of the recent adoption of genomics technology in the beef sector to improve the genetic quality of the national breeding herd
  • Exploit potential of genomics to add value at farm level

Sheep Sector


Actions required for the sector include:

  • Genetic improvement: focus on ewe fertility and on breeding resilience and resistance to diseases
  • Work collaboratively with processors, Bord Bia, Teagasc and Sheep Ireland to modify the very seasonal nature of Ireland’s sheepmeat supply, and maintain our presence and access to markets throughout the year
  • Increase farmer participation in Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance Scheme to 90%, in terms of proportion of output by 2025
  • Add value to exports by further moving from exporting entire carcases to pre-packaged boneless cuts through wider market access
  • Engage further with Sheep Ireland on the design and implementation of breeding indices based on marketing insights
  • Increase sheep farmer participation in Knowledge Transfer Programmes
  • Enhance hill farming systems by promoting greater integration with lowland sheep producers

Cereals/Tillage Sector


Actions required for the sector include:

  • Improve sustainability and reduce the costs of crop production through the improvement of soil management techniques.
  • Increase the proportion of cropped area under malting barley and wheat to meet the demand from distillers, maltsters and brewers.
  • Increase output of wheat and feed barley to support increased demand from the livestock sector and increase production of forage maize to meet anticipated demand for forage and nutrient requirements from the dairy sector.
  • Increase production of protein crops annually to provide source of native traceable protein for feedstuffs.
  • Increase the use of rotations and break crop production in response to meeting CAP greening requirements and to developing domestic and export markets.

Other sectors that are identified by FodWise2025 are pigmeat, poultry, prepared consumer foods (PCFs), horticulture, seafood and forestry. They can viewed on Pages 36-39 of its 2015 document.

What will be Food Wise 2025’s greatest hurdle?

The right people in the right positions.

The agri-food industry needs to invest in these people across the entire supply chain. However, if the industry can recruit and retain top talent, Food Wise 2025’s goals should be feasible and realistic.

What is the reaction from stakeholders?

As of early 2016, there has been very limited – and arguably muted – reaction from stakeholders as it remains unclear at this early stage exactly to what degree Food Wise 2025 will affect and influence their businesses.

Some international agri-business analysts, however, have already praised the fact that the Irish government has recognised the strategic importance of food in the economy and put in place a strategy and a vision to show how they will support the sector to be successful.

Who was involved in its creation?

In mid-2015, the 2025 Agri-Food Strategy Committee presented to the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, a draft strategy for FoodWise 2025.

That committee chair was John Moloney, Glanbia’s group former managing director.

The committee also comprised of the following people (note, these were the positions these people held in early 2015):

  • Helen Brophy, Director of Executive Education at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School
  • Laura Burke (CEO and Chair) of EPA
  • Carmel Cahill, Senior Counsellor, OECD Trade and Agriculture
  • Kieran Calnan, Chair of BIM
  • Michael Carey, Chair of Bord Bia
  • Vincent Carton, CEO /Managing Director, Cartons
  • Noel Cawley, Chair of Teagasc
  • Vincent Cleary, Managing Director Glenisk
  • John Comer, President of ICMSA
  • Donal Dennehy, Operations Director, Danone Ireland
  • Michael Dowling, Chairman-designate, Kerry Group PLC
  • Eddie Downey, President of IFA
  • Siobhan Egan, Senior Policy Officer, Birdwatch
  • Pat Glennon, Managing Director, Glennon Brothers
  • Jim Hanley, Chief Executive, Rosderra
  • Michael Hoey, Managing Director, Country Crest
  • John Horgan, Chief Executive, Kepak
  • Alan Jagoe, Progressive farmer
  • Martin Keane, President of ICOS
  • Caroline Keeling, Chief Executive, Keelings
  • Tony Keohane, Chairman, Tesco Ireland
  • Patrick Kent, President of ICSA
  • Kevin Lane, Chief Executive, Irish Dairy Board (now Ornua)
  • Anna Malmhake, Chairman and CEO, Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard
  • Tom Moran, former Secretary General of the Dept of Agriculture.
  • Larry Murrin, CEO of Dawn Farm Foods
  • Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation
  • Kieran O’Dowd, ex-President of Macra Na Feirme
  • John O’Reilly, Food Analyst, Davy’s
  • Larry O’Reilly, Cereal farmer
  • Prof Dolores O’Riordan, Director of the Institute of Food and Health (UCD)
  • Terence O’Rourke, Chair of Enterprise Ireland
  • Eddie Power, Managing Director, 2 Sisters Food Group
  • Prof Paul Ross, Prof of Research (UCC)
  • Siobhan Talbot, Group Managing Director, Glanbia

The secretariat comprised of the Department of Agriculture, Bord Bia, Teagasc and Enterprise Ireland.

How Can We Gauge The Success of Food Wise 2025?

As at time of writing (early 2016) Food Wise 2025 is still in nappies. When it will learn to walk remains to be seen, but it will get off the ground.

We can’t effectively judge its on-going success in any fair, accurate or insightful measure until at least 2020. But it won’t stop Ireland’s producers, processors and media from trying in the meantime!

irish food and drink exports