Exporters on a roll as 'green' initiative goes global
IRISH food exports are on track to emulate last year's record levels of €8.85bn and sustainability is playing a key role in that performance.
Food and drink exports from Ireland increased by 25pc over the last two years and total sales will be maintained in 2012 despite a more difficult trading environment, according to Aidan Cotter of the food marketing body Bord Bia.
The Bord Bia boss was speaking at the SIAL food fair in Paris yesterday.
SIAL is one of the world's largest food trade fairs and attracts up to 140,000 international buyers.
Fifteen Irish food processors are represented at the Paris showcase this week, with companies such as Larry Goodman's Anglo Beef Processors, Slaney Foods and the Irish Dairy Board leading the way.
Sustainability was the buzz word from the Irish presence in Paris following the international rollout of Bord Bia's Origin Green initiative.
Origin Green is a comprehensive national sustainability programme, designed by Bord Bia to help Ireland become known as the optimum source of sustainably produced food and drink.
Companies and food producers commit to a sustainability charter that involves reducing energy inputs, minimising their overall carbon footprint and limiting their impact on the environment.
Industry recruitment commenced in June 2012 and to date 79 companies, accounting for over 50pc of Irish food and drink exports, have signed up to the programme, including all 15 companies exhibiting at SIAL.
"Origin Green is a real game-changer. Global demand for food is going to increase by 70pc by 2050, while UN targets dictate that we must reduce carbon emissions over the same period by 60pc," Mr Cotter pointed out.
"So a sustainability initiative is a no-brainer," he said.
This view was shared by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Irish companies exhibiting at the Paris event.
"Ireland has embarked upon an innovative sustainability development programme for the food and drink industry. We have not only a clear vision of where we should be going but the wherewithal to get there," the Taoiseach said.
Mr Kenny said Origin Green demonstrated the commitment of Irish food and drink manufacturers to operate sustainably.
"We believe it is the starting point for Ireland to become a world leader in sustainably produced food and drink," he said.
Larry Murrin of Naas-based Dawn Farm Foods said the launch of Origin Green was "hugely important" for the food industry.
He said the Irish food industry was now well down the road of having a comprehensive strategy on sustainability.