A PRODUCTIVE agri-food sector can co-exist with nature in a sustainable manner, according to Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle.
He told the Teagasc Agri-Environment conference in Tipperary that Ireland is in a unique position as a world class producer of high quality, safe and naturally based produce.
“We are privileged to be surrounded by a high quality natural environment. As custodians of the countryside, every farmer knows that it is in their interest to protect water, soil and air quality as well as enhance biodiversity.
“Any future expansion of Irish agriculture must take place in an environmentally sustainable manner. In Teagasc, we believe that a productive agri-food sector can co-exist with nature in a sustainable manner,” he said.
Broadcaster Duncan Stewart said Ireland exports €7.5 billion worth of food, providing a valuable income for rural areas, while feeding a large number of people in Europe. But, he said, Ireland imports €4.7bn worth of food annually and he argued that there is a need to get back to more locally produced food, which has huge environmental benefits.
“We are locked into supermarkets who buy cheap food. We should look at local produce rather being enslaved to the supermarkets.
“If some of the €4.7bn spent on food imports was spent on locally produced food, it would generate loads of jobs in Ireland.”
Stressing the opportunities that exist in environmental tourism, Mr Stewart said farmers have managed our countryside very well.
They have created beautiful hedgerows that support biodiversity which is sought after by European visitors, he said.
Delegates also visited the Teagasc Solohead Research Farm, where the ability of clover to manufacture nitrogen in the soil was highlighted.
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