Experts signal need to plan for extreme weather events

The impact of climate change represents a significant opportunity for the Irish dairy sector but it also poses a threat, a special industry conference was told at the Teagasc Ashtown Centre in Dublin.

Details were revealed of a Safefood-sponsored research project which surveyed dairy industry stakeholders to determine their level of awareness of the impacts that climate change could create.

Principal researcher on the project, Professor Thia Hennessy, Department of Food Business, UCC, said this is the first such survey of dairy industry stakeholders on the island.

“We found that stakeholders from right across the dairy supply chain demonstrated a high level of awareness of climate change as well as a commitment to collective action to avail of any opportunities climate change may bring,” she said.

Research collaborator Trevor Donnellan, Teagasc, said the study confirmed climate change presents both an opportunity and a threat for the Irish dairy sector.

The threats identified in the survey included extreme weather events and the emergence of new diseases and pests. By contrast, the development of unfavourable climate conditions in some of the world’s key milk-producing countries could offer an advantage to the Irish dairy sector, since the climate here is likely to be less adversely affected.

“A key recommendation of this research was more planning is required to consider how to deal with extreme weather events,” he said.

Welcoming the research, Dr James McIntosh of Safefood said their work to improve public health on the island of Ireland is evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of consumers and the food environment.

Climate change could impact on almost every aspect of food production and supply on the island.

“It is important for us to understand how the provision of safe food and the promotion of good food safety practices across the food chain will be affected, particularly in larger agri-food sectors such as the dairy industry,” he said.

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