Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Delivery now the key to Harvest plan

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

There has been a broad welcome for the findings of the Food Harvest 2020 plan for the farm sector launched yesterday.

The report sets out ambitious goals. The headline details are the 50pc increase in milk production by 2020, as well as growing the value of total food and drink exports from €7bn to €12bn, and developing the Brand Ireland concept.

While many of the goals are certainly aspirational, the challenge is to realise the potential identified.

Given the broad-based membership of the committee charged with drawing up this report, it is fair to assume that the targets are achievable.

There are obvious challenges. The report accepts that a 12pc rise in greenhouse gas emissions could result from the increased output envisaged in the national dairy herd.

Ireland is under pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. Squaring these conflicting demands will not be easy.

At the launch yesterday, Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith accepted that the goal now was to deliver on the report's findings.

He said this would require Ireland to improve its competitiveness by 20pc relative to our competitors. This will necessitate action from other sectors in the economy, most particularly a reduction in energy costs.

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Echoing Mr Smith's comments, Michael Barry of the Irish Dairy Industries Association said the focus must move to identifying how growth can be realised and removing barriers that hinder its delivery.

IFA president John Bryan said targets for driving export growth to €12bn and for primary output to increase in value by €1.5bn were achievable if the appropriate policy and competitive economic environment is created by Government.

ICMSA president Jackie Cahill stressed the proposed milk output goals could only be achieved based on a viable price that returned an income commensurate with the work and investment required.

Irish Independent