THE gross output value of Irish farming and food production is expected double to €40 billion by 2030, according to a study launched yesterday.
A vision of the agri-food sector playing a wider role in a broader knowledge-based bio-economy was also one of the central themes of a new Teagasc foresight report presented at a conference in Dublin Castle.
The sector is facing change at an increasing pace, driven by issues such as energy supply and security, commodity price trends, climate change and market and consumer changes.
Experts evaluated and studied these trends over an 18-month period as part of the foresight process.
The food industry’s economic health will depend on its ability to maintain or expand market share at home and abroad. This means producing what consumers want at internationally competitive prices and with the required quality.
Within agriculture, a continued trend towards two contrasting types of farms — large-scale full-time farms and small-scale part-time ones — is expected to continue. Some 40% of farmers will retire by 2020 and most farms will change hands at least once by 2030, the report predicts.
Director of Teagasc, Professor Gerry Boyle said agriculture is on the cusp of profound change.
“The opportunities to find alternative sustainable fuels from plants will provide a challenge for research and exciting opportunities for those involved in the agri-food industry,” he said
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith said despite immediate challenges, the overall future is one of growing opportunity for Ireland.
With the correct policies, Irish agriculture and the food-processing industries will be developed as an integral part of the knowledge-based economy in a competitive and sustainable manner, he said.
Dr Gale Buchanan, United States Department of Agriculture, said investment in agricultural research and development is one of the prime drivers of growth in agricultural productivity.
“If we are going to be able to meet the world’s future needs for food, feed, fibre, and fuel, we will need all the science and technology tools available,” he said.
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