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18
ISSUE 6 2018
INTERVIEW
@IrishFoodMag www.irishfoodmagazine.com
agreement. I hope we get a transition
arrangement and I hope we get a positive
future trading relationship. Obviously, they
are all in the mix now. It's a very challenging
negotiating period. If they don't work out,
it's bad for us. But I do seriously believe that
it's worse for the UK. I think we all have
skin in the game here and let's be sensible
about it and have a withdrawal agreement
that reflects the backstop arrangements.
Let's have a future trading arrangement
that works for business people, for the
industry and that sees the UK remain a very
important trading partner for us. Culturally,
historically, geographically, it should always
be important. You could argue that this jolt
has led us to ask fundamental questions
about our level of exposure but, not
withstanding that, the UK will always be
important."
Market diversification
A key pillar for future growth in Ireland's
export story is market diversification and
it has been a contributing factor to the last
eight years of success, according to the
Minister. He points to opportunities under
European Union agreements such as CETA
(The Comprehensive Economic and Trade
Agreement between the EU and Canada), the
EU-Mexico and EU-Japan trade agreements.
"They are all really important. We are
following, in a way, where Europe leads. It's an
interesting thing, the market access we enjoy
by virtue of being part of the European Union."
Importantly, the Minister says it is in markets
with the highest product values that Ireland's
"sustainability credentials are really tested
and demanded".
Sustainability credentials
"I have always made the point that, yes, our
sustainability credentials on dairy, for example,
are good, but that's not to say we don't need
to do more. In fact, on the contrary, we need
to redouble our efforts and bring the industry
with us. Origin Green is hugely important
in that context and constantly using all the
instruments at our disposal. CAP reform is
going to be a really important toolbox for us
in terms of positioning our industry on a more
sustainable basis. The Commission's direction
of travel is very clear. It has a greater green hue
on CAP post 2020 and that is very important.
We have a very solid foundation laid, so though
we might be best in the world with New
Zealand on dairy, we have to do more. Green
energy, solar panels, grass management and
recordings, there are a plethora of initiatives
that are all part of the mix."
The Minister says now is the time to step up
and make a real impact on sustainability in the
agri-food industry. "Of our national emissions,
about 33.1 per cent come from agriculture...
So, we have to get our emissions down,
whether that's through carbon sequestration,
methane emissions, we will have to make
progress on those. There are a lot of naysayers
who say we should dismantle our dairy herd
or reduce numbers. I am convinced that we
should play to our strengths. The things that
we can do more efficiently than anybody else,
we should do, and a grass-based production
system is in that space. That's not to say
that we are there. It's a constant journey of
improvement and I think things like grassland
management and milk recording are important
to drive that efficiency. On farm, renewable
energy resources are very important. carbon
sequestration in the forestry sector are all
important and we need to do more."
The growth of Ireland's agri-food industry has
been driven for many years by industry-led
strategies, including Food Harvest 2020 and
Food Wise 2025. As we come closer to 2020,
it is clear that the industry has exceeded many
of the targets set out in Food Harvest 2020
and is well on track to achieve those of Food
Wise 2025. So, does the Minister believe the
industry needs to be more ambitious in its
next iteration of the strategy? "I think it will
be of its time and I think it will be a document
that is really key to the 2030 targets the
sustainable development of our industry, while
not compromising on food production.
"We can produce [food] more carbon-
efficiently than anyone else. The vehicle
we have used has been Food Wise 2025
and Food Harvest 2020 and its various
iterations prior to that. The next one is going
to be all about the sustainability agenda in
our development... [In] the international
marketplace, where premium prices are
demanded, high quality, safe and nutritious
food is a given. Your sustainability credentials
are what deliver the cherry on the cake and
that's what the next iteration of Food Wise is
going to be about. "
The things that we can do
more efficiently than anybody
else, we should do, and a
grass-based production
system is in that space