Agri-business plan to put it at centre of economic recovery
THE multi-billion euro food and agri-business industry have presented the Government with a 15-point action plan that would put their sector at the heart of the country's economic recovery.
The wish list -- which includes the introduction of measures to counteract fluctuations in commodity markets and sterling valuations -- was drawn up after a major industry summit last November.
At the event, industry leaders including Kerry Group boss Stan McCarthy, Glanbia boss John Maloney and Aryzta boss Owen Killian made rallying calls for the merits of government intervention in their sector and insisted that their industry's voice would be heard.
A spokesman for the Irish Farmers' Association this week confirmed that the outcome of the summit's debates had been crystallised in a plan by the Irish Management Institute.
"The report has been circulated to all members of the Oireachtas and a number of briefings have been held," he added.
In the report, the industry calls on the Government to push for the introduction of Europe-wide "market management tools" that would "counteract the volatility in commodity prices that has been a feature since CAP reform".
The demand comes after extreme volatility in dairy markets in particular put Ireland's food and agri-business sector under serious pressure last year.
The report also points to the need for the Irish government to pursue "a solution to the problem of the unfair devaluation of sterling against the euro", which wiped €400m off the industry's €7.1bn exports last year.
One sterling suggestion mooted by the report is the "possible re-introduction of Monetary Compensatory Amounts (MCAs), which were used to compensate for fluctuations in exchange rates before the euro was introduced".
On the demand side, the industry wants a comprehensive plan to market Ireland as "The Food Island" and to ensure accurate country-of-origin labelling "to differentiate the Irish product from lower quality imports".
The food industry also wants the recently introduced Employment Subsidy Scheme to be expanded to include new recruitment, and to include firms with fewer than 10 employees, reflecting the size of many of Ireland's smaller food and agri-businesses.
The IFA spokesman said progress had been made in several areas identified in the report, pointing to the imminent introduction of a voluntary code of practice for the retail sector, the retention of funding for farm schemes in December's budget and the Department of Agriculture's commitment to develop a "strategic plan" for the sector.
There are also "ongoing" discussion with the Agriculture Minister on extending "market management measures" to the dairy sector, as well as the "shape and size" of the CAP budget beyond 2013.