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Snippet Contents:

In December 2011, I announced my intention to begin consultations with the industry in relation to the introduction of a quality and sustainability programme for the dairy sector. This announcement was made against the background of ambitious plans under the Food Harvest 2020 Report to increase dairy production by 50% in the period to 2020, and the realisation that such additional production would need to find a home on international markets.
Environmental sustainability is an increasingly important issue in the market place for multi-national dairy and food operators, many of which now have sustainability as a core part of their corporate strategies. Ireland is well placed to develop a national brand image based on its mild maritime climate, plentiful supplies of water, grass based production, and an already positive green image.
Last year Bord Bia launched its “Origin Green” programme which establishes a framework within which Irish food companies can have their green credentials independently measured, and this will be a critically important element in the development of the Irish food sector in the coming years and its promotion on international markets. Indeed it has become clear during my trade missions to China and the US in 2012 that the sustainability message has a strong resonance both with potential customers for Irish food products and with potential investors in the Irish agri food sector. The key is to build independently verifiable metrics, which can be used in the marketplace, around Ireland’s already positive green image. Developing an independently accredited sustainability and quality programme for the dairy sector is an important part of that overall strategy. 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.
In that context, and following extensive consultations with stakeholders in the first half of 2012, I announced last June that Bord Bia would begin detailed work on the development of a national sustainability programme for the dairy sector, which will be used as a key element in marketing and promotional efforts on international markets. Stakeholders are currently engaged in detailed technical discussions on the development of the programme, under the aegis of a technical advisory group convened by Bord Bia to progress the issue. It is essential, of course, that the technical elements of such a programme strike the correct balance and are both practical to implement and meaningful in content. I am confident that this programme, which will in any event be finalised in full consultation with stakeholders, including farm bodies, will strike an appropriate balance, and that it will facilitate the expansion and development of the Irish dairy sector.