Farm expansion is not sufficient to deliver an agri-food industry that is internationally competitive and sustainable. As well as getting bigger, farmers need to get better.
That is the view of the Agri-Food Strategy Group whose Synthesis Report was formally launched by European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan.
The need for technical advancements, specialist knowledge availability and education are also recurring themes in the report.
The report recommends that Irish agriculture sets realistically achievable targets for the improvement of farm practices in areas such as the management of soil fertility, grass production and utilisation.
The report also highlights the need for research into the degree to which genetic, technical and husbandry advances have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There is also a pressing urgency to re-assess the future direction of education and training systems to raise the technical awareness and financial capabilities of all involved in farming and the agri-food sector.
The report also calls for active consideration to be given to reorientation of the CAP, to incentivise greater food-chain collaboration and adoption of food production systems that are sustainably competitive.
It recommends closer alignment of food production, processing and marketing to overcome deficiencies and the sharing of risks and rewards.
New organisational structures are needed to enhance the uptake of existing and ‘new knowledge’.
“As EU commissioner, I am always encouraged when member states take the initiative to prepare their farmers and agri-food sectors for the 21st century.
“This is a time of great change in the sector, with both challenges and opportunities appearing from all angles. Those who prepare themselves best today will reap the benefits tomorrow,” said Mr Hogan.
The Agri-Food Strategy Group are agri-food experts and policy strategists who gathered informally in a voluntary capacity in 2014.
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