Food Wise 2025 targets are 'aspirational'
A new set of targets behind a blueprint to grow food exports to €19bn could be viewed as "aspirational", the chair of the committee has admitted.
Billed as a strategic plan for the agri-food sector over the next decade 'Food Wise 2025', envisages a 65pc increase in the value of farmgate output to almost €10bn. The plan to replace the Food Harvest 2020 also sets out an additional 23,000 jobs in the sector, with an 85pc increase in food exports from their 2012 level to €19bn.
However, when challenged on the detail behind the headline figures, the chairman of the committee, former Glanbia boss John Moloney admitted that the report could be viewed as "aspirational".
"Clearly there is going to be expansion in the dairy sector, but whether that's going to involve an extra 200,000 or 250,000 cows depends on the level of research and technology adopted by the sector," he said.
Environmental groups have also expressed concerns that further growth in farm output would contravene Ireland's obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
"Despite an entire chapter dedicated to 'sustainability', there is still no concrete sectoral commitment to an absolute emissions reduction," said a statement from An Taisce.
The group also claimed that increases in the dairy herd were to be off-set by reductions in the suckler herd. The Food Wise 2025 report states that it was important that suckler cow numbers were "at least maintained at close to current levels."
However, Mr Moloney said the concerns had been dealt with in the report. "There is a recognition that the environment and economic competitiveness need to be equal partners."