Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Smith uses show stage to defend funding for 2020

Some of the cattle being groomed in readiness for competition
Some of the cattle being groomed in readiness for competition
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

AGRICULTURE Minister Brendan Smith has dismissed suggestions that there will be insufficient funding to reach targets set in Food Harvest 2020.

Minister Smith said that much of the commentary in relation to cuts in Government capital expenditure had been inaccurate.

Speaking at Virginia Show in Co Cavan on Saturday, he insisted the capital budget was not the only money available to the agriculture sector.

"€1.6bn has been committed for the Department of Agriculture," he said.

"Our capital budget was made known 12 months ago, which covers the period 2009 up to 2013, and some of the measures in that have already been rolled out, so we're ahead of target."

Minister Smith announced that he is to head the Food Harvest 2020 implementation group which aims to grow the value of the agri-food, fisheries and forestry sectors by a third and increase exports to €12bn.

"I want to emphasise my personal commitment and that of the Government to the achievement of these ambitious but realisable growth targets," he said.

"For the dairy sector, which is so central to the Virginia Show, this plan targets a 50pc increase in output. This would enhance the value of primary output by €700m, as well as downstream benefits in the form of increased dairy product values, export earnings and employment."

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He also highlighted the importance of the Asian market, noting that dairy products accounted for more than 80pc of the €279m exports in 2009.

IFA president John Bryan said milk expansion targets under the Food Harvest 2020 report would require industry consolidation and Government action.

"With the abolition of milk quotas less than five years away, young commercial dairy farmers are rearing to expand production, but for them to do so profitably will require an efficient value-adding industry and cohesive Government policies," Mr Bryan said.


The IFA man is to chair a project team within the association to identify key farmer, industry and Government actions required to ensure that the growth targets set out in the report are delivered.

Numbers attending Virginia Show were slightly up on last year at 15,000, largely due to the change of day to Saturday.

Organisers had been hoping that gate returns would be significantly boosted by the new weekend slot in a bid to maximise funding efforts.

An ambitious €650,000 building project for a new 'innovative centre' on the show grounds has already gone to tender with work due to start in early autumn.

The show society is hoping to secure €500,000 in LEADER funding with the remainder being raised locally.

"We're very lucky to still have all our sponsors on board but the downturn has had a big impact on Virginia," said show press officer Kathleen Duffy.

"We have great support from local businesses but there's no doubt about it that money is tight and people are watching every penny."

When complete, the centre will incorporate a community resource centre, museum of farming, agri arena and a market house with kitchen.

This year's show attracted exhibitors and competitors from all over Ireland for the 450 classes.

Apart from the Baileys Irish Champion competition, Virginia is also home to a wide selection of competitions featuring some of the country's finest livestock.

Irish Independent