IF anyone wanted further proof of the new strength of the Irish food industry, we got it yesterday when Joe Keeling (pictured) was appointed as new head of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI).
Mr Keeling is well known in racing circles and has owned horses for several years.
In the business world he is a familiar figure as the head of Keelings, the Dublin-based fresh fruit produce distributor.
He is expected to take over from former Kerry Group boss Denis Brosnan – a near legend of the food and agri-sector – in the new year.
It's perhaps understandable that agriculture minister Simon Coveney should pick someone from an industry he knows to be his man at HRI, but it is further evidence, if it were needed, of the strength of the sector these days.
Mr Brosnan had the profile and the track record when he took the HRI chairmanship. Coming from Kerry Group, he was already closely associated with the agri-business that racing is very much a part of.
Mr Keeling is a keen owner, but certainly does not have the same profile as his predecessor.
Meanwhile, the outgoing editor of the 'Farmers' Journal', Matt Dempsey, is to take over as chairman of the Irish National Stud. Retirement promises to be at least as busy for Mr Dempsey in what is a critical position in the bloodstock industry.