July 22, 2010
Ireland eyes milk export growth
Ireland is planning to grow its milk output by 50% once EU milk quotas are lifted in 2015, as the government places agri-food at the heart of an export-led growth strategy, said agriculture minister Brendan Smith.
The new Food Harvest report has shown that Ireland can grow its food and beverage exports over 40% by 2020. And a move away from milk quotas at an EU level offers particularly strong opportunities for growth in the dairy sector, Smith said.
Michael Barry, director of the Irish Dairy Industries Association, added that in a more competitive dairy marketplace Ireland stands to benefits from a good low-cost production base although he said consolidation is called for at the processing level.
However, whether the tremendous growth opportunities for the Irish dairy sector are realised over the next ten years will depend to a great extent on outside factors, Barry said.
Another slump in global prices could jeopardise export growth and there are other uncertainties facing the industry like how to square the ambitious expansion goals with equally ambitious carbon emission targets. A lot may depend on how government policies are implemented.
To help industry full its export potential, the government has set out two guiding principles: 'act smart' and 'think 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.
"Secondly we must be green. 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," Barry explained.
A new high level group is to be set up by Smith to ensure effective, joined-up implementation of the strategy.