Farmers welcome sector blueprint but say Government support is vital

FARMERS are ready to play their part in grasping the real opportunities that have been identified in the Food Harvest Report.

That was the clear message from Irish Farmers Association president John Bryan, who welcomed the publication of the Government blueprint. He said the targets for export growth to €12 billion and for primary output to increase in value by €1.5bn are achievable.

But the appropriate policy and competitive economic environment must be created by the Government to realise the industry’s full potential. “The cornerstone of the 2020 strategy is to increase production at producer level across all sectors. Government support in assisting competitiveness and supporting vital farm schemes is critical for this to happen,” he said.

Mr Bryan said external factors such as a well-funded Common Agricultural Policy post-2013 must be put in place. Concessions from trade deals that would damage primary production must be resisted, in order for the objectives to be met.

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association president, Jackie Cahill, said the report was welcome and could serve as a blueprint for the sector. But there was a danger that the aspirations and recommendations contained in it would remain just that – aspirations and recommendations – unless they were backed up by real action and investment.

Mr Cahill said the ICMSA considered the proposed volume of increase in milk output to be optimistic. Any such increase could only be achieved on the base of a viable price that returned an income to farmers commensurate with the amount of work and investment required. Teagasc director Professor Gerry Boyle said it is resolutely committed to supporting the industry to achieve the growth targets outlined in the report. It is working across the industry to enhance the levels of productivity and competitiveness in the sector, he said.

Labour Party spokesman Seán Sherlock, TD, who also welcomed the report, said the agri-food sector has huge potential, and any proposals that will help to unlock that potential should be greeted with open arms. “Any national economic recovery is predicated on the need to safeguard and develop our food industry, and this document makes a useful contribution in that regard,” he said.

The Irish Dairy Industries Association (IDIA), the IBEC group that represents dairy producers, welcoming the launch of the report, said the Government must now focus on removing the remaining barriers that hinder growth in the sector.

IDIA senior executive Michael Barry said the vision for growth is credible if backed by the right Government policies. Increasing output requires a renewed focus on competitiveness.


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