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Comprehensive Action Plan for the future of Agri-Food

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Ms Mary Coughlan TD, announced today a Plan for the Future of Agri-Food Sector. The Action Plan is the response to the Report of the Agri-Vision 2015 Committee, which was chaired by Mr Alan Dukes and contained some of most senior figures in the sector including leaders of the farm and industry organisations. It also takes account of the material from a wide variety of other reports and sources such as the Enterprise Strategy Group.

The Minister said that "this Plan is based on a well-founded belief that the Irish agri-food sector, including our farmers, and our food and drink manufacturers, can compete with the best in the world when that objective is pursued with sufficient focus, determination and skill."

The Plan sets our a new vision for the future of the sector in the light of new changes impacting on it such as the change to a decoupled payments regime, a more liberalised trade policy, changes in lifestyle, the clear emergence of technology and R&D as significant market drivers and major changes in the structures of farming and retailing.

The Minister stated that "the Plan focuses on three key requirements for success in the light of these challenges: competitiveness, innovation and consumer-focused marketing. Competitiveness is not optional for such an export-oriented sector and is the primary objective on which this plan is based. In the modern high-tech food industry, technological progress and product innovation are unremitting and vital to the future of the sector. Meeting consumer demands on product, presentation and price are also absolutely critical to our continuing success."

The Plan presents not only the broad vision for the future of the sector but also contains 166 specific actions to be implemented in the near future. Actions will be taken under a series of headings, which the Minister emphasised are "to focus on the objective of ensuring that the Irish agri-food sector compares to the best in the EU and in the world in terms of knowledge base, competitiveness, innovation and marketing."

In the area of building the knowledge base and innovation, the Minister said: "I will prioritise increased Exchequer funding for Research and Development in the National Development Plan 2007 - 2013, I have already shown my intent in this area by increasing R&D funding this year."

The Minister emphasised that "competitiveness is literally a life and death issue for food firms, and ultimately for the commercial future of our farms. For this reason, the longest chapter in the Plan is on Competitiveness covering over 93 actions. One of the most important was announced last week, a substantial change in the milk quota system will commence in 2007. Arrangements are being made to introduce an open-market system of transferring quotas designed to facilitate consolidation of holdings, increase efficiency and contribute to more competitive milk production. This is a very important development for our commercial dairy farmers."

There are also many actions to be taken in the other areas such as small-scale enterprises, horticulture and the organic sector, forestry, renewable energy and rural development.

The Minister concluded by saying: "This Plan sets out our positive vision for the future of the sector. It underlines the fact that delivering safe, high-quality, nutritious food, produced in a sustainable manner, to well-informed consumers in high-value markets is the optimum road for the future of the Irish food industry, and therefore for our farmers.

"It sets out the 166 actions that are being or will be taken to fulfill this vision. The huge range of activities outlined make it clear that the State, and the taxpayer, are doing their bit. It is vitally important that all the private interests in the sector also step up to the plate. I am convinced that they will, and I look forward to the establishment of the Agri-Vision Forum, announced in Chapter 7 of this report, where we will bring all the relevant interests together and focus them on the achievement of our common aim."

Agri Vision 2015 - Final Report (pdf 1,853Kb) 

22 March 2006

Date Released: 22 March 2006