A NEW semi-state agency to provide food consultancy advice to other governments will be established by Christmas.
According to the Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, Sustainable Food Systems Ireland will be a government consultancy targeting advice to countries and companies investing in food production worldwide.
"If you want to invest in cars, you go to Germany. We want people to come to Ireland if they want to get into food," Mr Coveney told journalists yesterday on the last day of his five-day trade mission to the Middle East.
However, the minister insisted that the new entity would not cost the Exchequer. "If this isn't able to wash its face, we'll close it down," he said.
The new body will have a six member board.
"This will be a food advisory portal that will sell our expertise on the back of our reputation," he added.
Throughout the five-day trip, Department of Agriculture officials met with representatives of the huge Gulf sovereign wealth funds who indicated an interest in investing in Ireland.
"Some are definitely looking to Ireland and our food sector as a place to invest in long term partnerships because we are a great value proposition at the moment as we start to come out of recession," Mr Coveney said. However, he denied that any large tracts of land would be offered for sale.
"We've already got a real shortage of land and we've made it clear throughout our discussions that if they want to invest in Ireland, they will need partners," he added.
While the trade mission finished yesterday, many of the 34 companies involved have indicated that they will return within a matter of weeks to follow up on new business opportunities. Service providers have also secured multi-million euro deals during the trip.
Cork-based company, BioTector, has signed a €5m contract with a company based in the region. The contract, to supply water pollution monitoring equipment over five years, will allow CEO David Horan to massively increase employment at his Ringaskiddy plant before the end of 2013.