HOSPITALS, the defence forces and public bodies are buying huge quantities of imported food instead of locally produced Irish food.
The Irish Farmers Association today revealed the results of a survey of 165 public bodies which found large amounts of chicken, pork and other products are being sourced overseas.
This is despite the fact Ireland is producing an abundance of food, as Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he expected Irish food and drink exports to top €10bn this year.
The survey found that some 58pc of public bodies purchased imported chicken while over a third purchased imported pork.
The results were revealed at the Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska, Co Laois where attendance is expected to exceed yesterday’s record for an opening day of 81,000.
A separate survey by the Irish Farmers Journal meanwhile showed 88pc of suprermarket ready meals used chicken sourced from abroad.
The IFA noted the Defence Forces had a particularly poor record in buying Irish as one third of its beef was sourced outside the Republic and none of its bacon was sourced here.
And while the HSE said it required food meet Bord Bia Quality Assurnace standards, individual hospitals cited availability and price as the reason for purchasing imported food.
“Taxpayers’ money is underpinning the work of those we surveyed and IFA feels very strongly that our food industry should be supported in return,” said IFA president John Bryan.
He also slated the tendency of some public bodies to pass responsibility for purchasing decisions to outside caterers describing this as “Pontius Pilate-like behaviour.
But Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said public bodies had to abide by public procurement rules and EU competition law.
“We can’t require caterers to source all of their food in Ireland,” he said.
“Let’s not forget that Ireland is a big exporter of food too and if other countries took the view that they would only consume home-based product, we would have no food and drink sector.”
Mr Coveney said he was hoping Irish food and drink exports would reach €10 bn this year, up 30pc on two years ago.
A team of Chinese pigmeat buyers are attending the Ploughing Championships today to get a flavour of Ireland’s food industry.
Bord Bia is hosting the buyers from six Chinese pigmeat companies as China is the world’s biggest consumer of pork, and the aim is to increase the €44m of pigmeat Ireland sells there each year.