Viewpoint: Farming needs young blood like never before
Published 08/03/2016 | 02:30
The global gathering of Nuffield scholars kicked off in Cavan at the weekend. It's the first time that the annual conference has taken place in Ireland, and given that it represents a collective of the brightest minds working in the international farm sector, it is an event that we should be proud to host.
Ahead of his address to the scholars, Rabobank's Senior Vice President for rural banking, Bart Ijntema, spoke of his concerns about the lack of profitability in farming becoming a major disincentive to getting enough young people interested in the sector.
"The profits along the food chain are not equally divided at the moment," he said. "The retailers, processors and input suppliers are making a return on investment of 15-20pc, while the average at farm level is barely 2pc.
"I think this is a big part of the reason that the average age of farmers is increasing globally. It's about 60 years on average now in the US and Australia, and heading for 65."
The situation isn't much better in Ireland, with 55 often being quoted as the average age of the Irish farmer.
This comes at a time when the world is going to need young, energetic farmers more than ever before.
Mr Ijntema summed it up best with this astounding fact.
"With the world's population increasing to 9 billion by 2050, and a moral responsibility to lift 800 million people out of hunger, the food requirement for the next 35 years will be bigger than the total amount of food harvested by man since time began."