JANUARY 2020 www.irishfarmersmonthly.com Feature Agri-Food Strategy to 2030 The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine sets out its strategy for the coming decade. The agri-food sector is an essential part of the social and cultural fabric of Ireland and makes a significant contribution to our economy. The sector provides employment for about 173,000 people, particularly important in supporting rural and coastal communities, and contributes 7.5 per cent of Modified Gross National Income. Irish food is produced by farmers, fishermen and agri-food companies throughout the country and is exported to over 180 countries around the world, with agri-food exports reaching almost €13.7 billion in 2018. Food Wise 2025 is the current strategy for the agrifood sector. It contains a vision of thriving primary producers and agri-food businesses at the heart of vibrant communities across the country. It was built on five cross-cutting themes – environmental sustainability, human capital, competitiveness, market development and innovation. The agri-food sector has benefited from an approach to strategic planning through the development of tenyear stakeholder-led strategies, updated every five years since the first one was published in the year 2000. Since their inception, up to the current Food Wise 2025, these strategies have ensured that the sector has a coherent, stakeholder-led vision and strategy to underpin its development. The success of these strategies is evidenced by a 73 per cent growth in agri-food exports since 2009. A key feature of each of these strategies has been the level of joint engagement by stakeholders and the public sector. These strategies are fully owned by all who take part in forming them: farming organisations, food industry, NGOs, retailers and academics; as well as the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and relevant State agencies. This collaborative approach has allowed the agri-food sector to develop and continue to expand its global reach with loyal customers nationally and internationally. The process to develop a strategy to 2030 began this year and in July, Minister Michael Creed TD opened a public consultation to ascertain the views of all stakeholders on the direction of the sector and to determine what strategic actions are required to ensure it continues to thrive in the years ahead. The Minister also hosted a national stakeholder consultation event at the Aviva Stadium on the 16th October, where 400 delegates discussed these issues in more detail. A Committee representative of the sector has now been established by the Minister. The first meeting of the Committee took place in November under the Chairmanship of Mr Tom Arnold. Their task is to develop the vision and key objectives & associated actions required to ensure the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the agri-food sector for the decade ahead. A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) will also be conducted in parallel with the work of the Committee. While the agri-food sector faces challenges, great opportunities also exist. Environmental sustainability, including climate, air, biodiversity and water, will be a key issue to be considered by the Committee. Equally, meeting consumer and societal expectations; expanding our footprint globally; innovation; and competitiveness will be priorities for the industry. Primary producers are an essential part of the economic and social fabric of Ireland and it remains a priority to enable them to produce food in an environmentally sustainable and economically viable way. Rising to these challenges will maintain our position as a supplier of safe sustainable and nutritious food. It is important that we build on the success to date and develop a vision for an exciting, dynamic, sustainable and innovative agri-food sector, agreed by all stakeholders, ensuring there is a unified, coherent and agreed direction to 2030. 29