THE 2020 Committee believes Irish food and drink exports can rise about 70% by 2020, to €12 billion, compared to last year’s €7.12bn.
The group of 30 farm and food industry leaders — appointed by Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith to draw up a long-term strategy for the agri-food, forestry and fisheries sectors — has set a target to increase the value of primary agriculture, fisheries and forestry output by €1.5bn, a 33% increase compared to the 2007-2009 average.
It has called for businesses in the industry and farms to be monitored, to ensure the growth of viable businesses is not inhibited by lack of credit. The Government is advised to consider the specific needs of the food and beverages sector in its deliberation on an export credit insurance scheme. In general, state support should be targeted with a view to promoting competitiveness and sustainability.
Processors and manufacturers were seen as challenged by lack of scale, fierce international competition, international retail consolidation and changing consumer demands, according to the committee. But new working relationships in the food chain, new product streams, new markets, enhancing productivity and competitiveness, and leadership could lead to expansion.
The committee foresees Irish companies increasingly sharing resources in knowledge generation, pursuing consumer and market trends, and making the best use of its human capital.
Consolidation, collaboration and ‘co-opetition’ are recommended.
Co-opetition means strategic decisions to work co-operatively in markets where pooling resources is the most effective approach. ‘Brand Ireland’, linking the role as a natural food producer with obvious attractions as a tourist destination, is the committee’s recommended food and drink marketing route, in conjunction with openness to inspection by tourist visitors.
The Government is urged to focus on competitiveness and long-term sustainability of the sector in its approach to reforms of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, the dominant source of funding for the Irish farm and food industry.
From EU and Irish policy perspectives, it is seen as imperative that the CAP is framed to be compatible with environmental requirements, according to the committee, which also emphasised the importance of Ireland meeting its obligations under EU Directives, such as the Water Framework and Birds and Habitats Directives, and in the area of climate change.
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