TAOISEACH Brian Cowen believes 4,000 jobs could be created over the next 10 years under ambitious plans for agriculture, fisheries and forestry.
Mr Cowen referred to the job creation prospects when he launched the Food Harvest 2020 strategy at the Department of Agriculture’s laboratory complex in Backweston, Co Kildare.
“At a time perhaps in the last decade when we’ve seen employment reduced by 1,500 in the agri-food sector, we see the prospect of 3,500 to 4,000 jobs being created by 2020 under these plans,” he said.
A target of €12 billion in annual exports, a 42% increase compared to 2008, has been set in the medium term strategy for the development of the sector.
Increasing the value of primary output by €1.5bn, a 33% increase, and increasing value-added output by €3bn, a 40% increase, are other targets outlined in the report.
The blueprint contains 209 recommendations and envisages a 50% increase in milk production and a 20% increase in beef production. It sets the scene for the sector to capitalise on the opportunities available from global population growth, greater access to international markets and the ending of European Union milk quotas in 2015.
The report says creativity and entrepreneurship must be fostered, industry must rationalise and collaborate and there must be an improved focus on consumer preferences.
Mr Cowen said future economic growth will be driven by exports of goods and services which also stimulate activity and employment throughout the rest of the economy.
Stressing the agri-food sector has a major role to play in Ireland’s economic recovery, he pledged the Government’s full support for the effort.
He said he had asked Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister Brendan Smith to lead the implementation process for Food Harvest 2020 and to ensure a fully joined-up and integrated Government response.
Mr Smith said the title of the report, Food Harvest 2020, encapsulates the Committee’s conviction that the sector can deliver real returns and be at the forefront of economic recovery.
Dr Seán Brady, chairman of the 30-member report committee, highlighted the two key pillars of the growth strategy for the sector, acting smart and thinking green.
“Smart – that means being innovative, investing in research, focusing on what the consumer wants, applying lean manufacturing techniques and ensuring we have the scale at every level to maximise our cost competitiveness.
“Green – that means we must build in a meaningful way on our green image to scientifically prove, and then market, the environmental sustainability of our food production systems. This is a key competitive advantage for us if we can prove to our international customers that we really are more sustainable than other potential suppliers,” he said.
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