Irish Food Processing Sector
(Paper primarily drafted by Enterprise Ireland)
The key challenge as outlined in the Social Partnership 2015 review was the positioning of the Irish food and agricultural economy in a knowledge economy context. This vision also informed the thrust of the 2007 NDP, which was very much focused on the ‘Knowledge Economy’ with an emphasis on state support and investment in Research and Development (R& D).
The recent dramatic decline in the fortunes of the Irish and world economies has created a changed backdrop to an assessment of how the food industry will evolve to 2020. In particular, a combination of reduced public and private sector incomes and spending power, a renewed consumer/producer focus on value, price and cost plus the decline in exchequer finances mean that current policies must be reassessed.
The belief in the requirement to position the agri-food sector firmly in the knowledge economy has not diminished. On the contrary, the competitiveness challenge at primary agriculture level combined with the necessary focus on the environmental sustainability of agricultural production methods, means that a key strategy of the agri-food sector including the research community must be on the improved communication and adoption of:
• best practice
• new technology
• research and advice.
Ireland remains a low cost producer in the EU of primary beef and dairy products and has significant capability in the prepared consumer foods sector. Concerns at producer level about lower prices are suggesting that some producers are contemplating an exit from meat and dairy. However, difficult as is the current situation in Ireland, there is a more profound and sustained trend in reduced dairy and beef production in the UK. This reduction in supply in our nearest market represents a significant opportunity for the Irish food and agri sector provided we get our cost base right.
The food and agri- sector...