Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 March 2018

Smith to chair Food Harvest 2020 meeting

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith is to chair the first meeting of the Food Harvest 2020 implementation group this week.

The meeting will include chief executives of key state bodies and key officials from the Departments of Agriculture and Finance

The minister said one of the group's first tasks would be to consider, prioritise and drive the actions necessary to realise the full potential of the agriculture sector.

While this initial group is designed to act as a clearing house for issues that crop up during the implementation of the Food Harvest 2020 report, further meetings are planned to include private companies, co-ops, farmers and universities.

"This will allow farmers, co-ops and food companies to step up to the plate and demonstrate in a practical way their determination to contribute fully to this joint national effort," Mr Smith said.

Aidan O'Driscoll, assistant secretary general at the Department of Agriculture, assured delegates at the ASA conference that there had been a "total change of mindset" regarding the agriculture sector at Government level.

"I have heard the term 'sunset industry' being used in relation to agriculture, often by my colleagues in the civil service, but this has totally changed," he insisted.

"It really is exceptional for a cabinet minister to chair an implementation group himself," he told the conference.

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"There has been a very high level of buy-in by the Taoiseach and senior officials in this report."

However, a survey by the ASA found that two-thirds of agricultural graduates were sceptical that the dairy sector could reach the Food Harvest 2020 target of increasing milk production by 50pc.

While half of respondents to the survey regard the Food Harvest 2020 report as 'good' and felt it set out a clear agenda for the dairy and overall agri-food sector, they were not convinced that the ambitious targets were achievable.

Irish Independent