Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

Passion will help put us back on map, says McAleese

Aideen Sheehan

AS new figures showed a surge in Irish food and drink exports, President Mary McAleese said the Ploughing Championships showed what the country was capable of achieving.

Opening the three-day event in Athy, Co Kildare, yesterday, President McAleese told the record opening-day crowd of 66,000 people that by their presence they were "creating an inspirational sign" of what the country could achieve.

"There is a big statement in this place about the faith and pride we have in ourselves and the hopes we have of putting our country back on the map of economic progress and prosperity.

"We will do it between us and we will do it for our children. Please God we'll see the evidence of that very soon because the passion is there and the pride is there," she said.

President McAleese praised the massive community effort to transform a working farm into a temporary city complete with traffic management, entertainment, restaurants, exhibits, competitions, information points and meeting places.

"Despite the tough economic climate, you have brought to these fields not just a brand-new temporary capital of rural Ireland, but a visible and inspirational sign of what we are capable of achieving when we pull together."

The National Ploughing Association said yesterday's 66,000-strong attendance was a record for a first day, up 20,000 on last year's opening day at the same location, a fact it attributed to the good weather.

With heavy rain forecast for today and the ground already quite heavy around the site, it looked likely many visitors chose to attend yesterday while it was still dry.

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The strong attendance led to tailbacks of up to 40 minutes on approach roads. However, Sergeant Ronan McDonald, who was in charge of the garda traffic plan, said this was a result of heavy volumes and some first-day teething problems that would be rectified today.

Meanwhile, new figures from Bord Bia showed that there was an 8pc increase in Irish food and drink exports in the first five months of the year, thanks to a weaker euro, higher meat exports and stronger beverage, dairy and seafood exports.

This trend accelerated as the year progressed, with exports in May some 23pc ahead of May 2009, said Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter.

"During the first five months of 2010, the value of exports was 8pc higher than a year earlier at €3bn," he said at the Ploughing Championships.

And the food prices paid to farmers worldwide as measured by the Food and Agriculture Organisation are now 40pc higher than the average for the last decade, and have increased by 15pc since January alone, Mr Cotter added.

Meat prices were up 13pc since the start of the year and dairy prices were up 63pc. And although cereal prices were 8pc lower, they had risen by 12pc in August as supply shortages hit.

"The export prospects for the major product categories for the remainder of 2010 are more positive as better market prices, an improved exchange rate and a more stable economic picture across key markets underpin trade," he said, adding that the recent jump in grain prices could have a huge impact on pig farmers and other sectors that relied on cereal for feed.

Irish Independent

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