Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

Retailers get round the table to make Ireland 'green' food hub

Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

REPRESENTATIVES from some of the world's biggest food retailers were in Dublin yesterday as the Irish food industry tries to position itself as a base for clean, sustainable food production.

The Bord Bia event was the latest initiative by the agency to highlight Ireland's key position in the food sector, and get Irish suppliers in front of the big retailers.

Among the attendees were buyers from Carrefour, the world's largest food retailer, Marks & Spencer and Chinese dairy company Whaha. Spinneys – one of the biggest food sellers in the Middle East and north Africa – also attended. Bord Bia believes that one of the big selling points for Irish firms is the 'Origin Green' sustainability programme. Launched last summer, the scheme aims to develop clear targets for food producers in areas such as emissions, energy, waste, water, biodiversity and corporate social responsibility activities.

The food agency claims the scheme now encompasses 35,000 farms and more than 280 companies, accounting for some two-thirds of Ireland's food and drink exports. Bord Bia chairman Michael Carey said the event was vital to the food sector.

"This conference addresses a key area underpinning our green and natural image and will help reposition our industry into a leadership role in the international marketplace," he said.

"It complements our latest, parallel marketing drive taking place this week, with more than 150 buyers new to the Irish food industry undertaking site visits and meetings with over 100 food and drink companies."

Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter says Origin Green was a "unique, national sustainability programme of measurement and feedback, of targets, actions and continuous improvement. It is a programme we believe, by 2016, can make Ireland a world leader in sustainability".

"We estimate that, by the end of 2014, 75pc of Ireland's food and drinks exports will come from farms and food businesses that are on the road to sustainability," he added.

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Jason Clay, a sustainability expert and senior official with the World Wildlife Foundation, said the world will have a population of 9.6 billion and need to produce twice as much food as it currently does.

"The fact is, every business in every industry will be forced to grapple with environmental impacts – water, carbon, and the rest – that stretch across the entire enterprise and pose strategic risks to corporations," he said.

He also pointed to growing market demands for sustainability to inform the corporate agenda. According to Standard & Poor's, in 2009 81pc of an organisation's market value is based on intangible assets such as reputation, compared to 68pc in 1995 and just 17pc in 1975, he added.

With yesterday's event, it is hoped Irish food will gain a reputation for being sustainably produced, and our wares will be more attractive to world consumers as a result.

Irish Independent

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