President's farm visit highlights Ireland's food exports to the UK
Yesterday, President Higgins and his wife Sabina spent much of the day wandering around a farm in Wytham in Oxford.
Their visit highlights the fact that Ireland was a major supplier of food to the rest of the UK before Independence and remains a big supplier today.
The UK is a major net importer of food, with imports accounting for around one-third of consumption. The UK remains the largest export market for Irish food and drink, with 42pc of food and drink exports destined for the market in 2013.
In 2013, the value of Irish food and drink exports to the UK increased by 8pc on the previous year to reach €4.2bn, over €1bn more than the 2009 figure. Last year, beef exports increased by €90m to €1.12bn, and dairy exports increased by €150m to reach €1.1bn. The UK accounts for 37pc of Ireland's total dairy exports. Other key export categories include prepared foods valued at €624m, beverages (€377m) and pigmeat (€330m).
Bord Bia calculates that the UK population is projected to grow by 10 million over the next 25 years, a figure twice the Irish population. This is a huge opportunity for Irish food and drink exports, which are already in a very strong position across all categories in the UK market.
"The State Visit, and in particular the President's participation in a farm visit yesterday, provides us with an invaluable opportunity to highlight Bord Bia's Origin Green programme and promote Ireland's ambition to become a world leader in the delivery of sustainable, high-quality food and drink products," Bord Bia boss Aidan Cotter said.
Developed by Bord Bia, Origin Green is an industry-wide programme incorporating both Irish farmers and manufacturers.
Bord Bia has carbon footprinted over 57,000 Irish farms to date, with an average of 600 audits taking place each week monitoring a wide range of criteria including food safety, traceability, animal health and welfare and the environment.
Feedback following an audit allows the farmer to work towards reducing the farm's carbon footprint over time.
Meanwhile, for an Irish food manufacturer to become a member of Origin Green, it must develop a customised sustainability plan that identifies clear targets in key areas of sustainability, such as emissions, energy, waste, water management, biodiversity and CSR activities. Once the timeline and targets are established, progress is measured on an annual basis.
Since its launch in 2012, over 324 Irish food and drink companies, representing over 85pc of total exports, have registered their commitment to the programme.