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Bord Bia Food and Drinks Summit

"Bord Bia to Activate Technical Discussions on Dairy Sustainability Programme"

Speaking in advance of Bord Bia's Food and Drinks Summit later this week, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, said today that he had asked Bord Bia to now begin work with key stakeholders on the development of a national sustainability programme for the dairy sector.

Referring to the Food Harvest 2020 targets for the dairy sector, the Minister said that environmental sustainability would be a key factor when it came to planning for a 50% expansion in dairy production:

"In Food Harvest 2020, the Irish dairy sector has set an ambitious 50% expansion target for itself, against the background of milk quota abolition in 2015.   We know that Irish dairy farmers can meet these production targets, and that this will deliver a tremendous dividend for the Irish economy.  Of course this expansion will only happen if it is profitable, and this means increasing value added, finding new markets, expanding market share in traditional markets, and reducing costs at primary production level.

We also know that environmental sustainability is an increasingly important issue in the market place for many international dairy operators,  and equally that it can be the foundation stone for a national brand image for Ireland based on our mild maritime climate, plentiful supplies of water,  grass based production, and an already positive green image.  There is also a strong correlation between the measures needed to improve environmental sustainability, and those needed to reduce the costs of production at farm level and improve profitability.

Of course it is no longer enough to say that you have a clean, green product, you must be in a position to prove this through a credible accredited means of measurement. I believe that the dairy sector accepts this fact and I am convinced that the development of a dairy sustainability programme can be a critical support for the growth strategy for the Irish dairy sector.  Bord Bia, which has significant experience in this area, can have a valuable role to play in the development of such a programme, in consultation with key stakeholders, and also in its implementation."

The Minister added that he believed that the time had now come to formalise a detailed technical discussion on the operational details of a dairy sustainability programme: "I believe that there is widespread support in principle for a programme of this nature and that stakeholders recognise the advantages of addressing the sustainability question on a National, rather than on a piecemeal basis.

Such a programme would put flesh on the bones of an idea which had its genesis in Food Harvest 2020, and make a real contribution to the development of the dairy sector.

I am confident that the main stakeholders in the dairy sector are ready to embrace the challenge of sustainable growth and invite them now to engage with Bord Bia to develop and implement a sustainability programme that will be a foundation stone for the dairy expansion.

As with the development of any programme of this nature, there will be  logistical and operational challenges along the way, but I am convinced that these are challenges which must be met head on if the Irish dairy sector is to compete on global and European markets following abolition of milk quotas in 2015."

Concluding, Minister Coveney said that Bord Bia would shortly be convening a technical advisory group to progress the issue, and urged all of those concerned to engage in a positive way with this very important initiative.

Date Released: 20 June 2012