Ireland unveils ambitious export growth plan

The Irish Department for agriculture has published ambitious plans to increase the size of its agri-food industry over the next decade.

Among 200 recommendations in the Food Harvest 2020 report is a target to grow Irish food exports by 42% from €7bn to €12bn (£10bn) by 2020 by building on Ireland’s image of “green” pasture-based production systems, combined with investment in innovation, skills and competitiveness.

In addition, the government wants to increase the value of Irish primary output in the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector by 33% (€1.5bn) compared to the 2007-09 average.

The UK is a major destination for Irish food and drink exports – accounting for 43% of the total – and such an increase in the country’s exports could put extra competition on UK farmers, the NFU said.

“The rhetoric is clear: The Irish government wants the sector to expand in order to deliver increased economic growth to the Irish economy. The UK must be seen as one of the major target markets for expansion.”

However, given the Irish government faced similar financial constraints and budget cuts to the UK, it was hard to see where the resources for such an ambitious plan would come from, the NFU said.