Future in food
Special Report Growth in all sectors of the food industry is expected to ramp up, writes Alison Healy, Food and Farming Correspondent
The dairy industry is expected to double its growth by 2020, making it worth €1.5 billion.
These are exciting times for the food industry. Global population is set to grow by two billion by 2050 and food production is already struggling to keep up with demand. According to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, the world will need between 40 to 50 per cent more food by 2030. “We know that is going to be driven by demand for seafood, dairy products and red meat and Ireland produces all three competitively and effectively,” he says. “And we are planning to grow the industries of all three.”
Adding to the optimism is the fact that milk quotas will be abolished in 2015, freeing up farmers to produce as much milk as they like for the first time in more than 30 years.
That sense of opportunity has not gone unnoticed in our schools. According to the CAO, the biggest jump in demand for college places this autumn was in agriculture-related courses where applications rose by 6.69 per cent, compared with last year. More than 1,400 people are studying in agricultural colleges today – an increase of 800 in six years.
This is all good news for a country that markets itself as the food island.
Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter says we’ve enjoyed a period of sustained growth in recent years. Exports increased by 27 per cent in the past three years and topped €9 billion for the first time last year. “And all the indications are that, notwithstanding poor weather conditions, that growth will continue in 2013.”
Despite the year starting with the worst possible news in the form of the horse meat scandal, beef exports actually grew by 12 per cent between January and March. “There’s great demand for quality cattle and that’s good news for farmers,” Cotter says. “Given what’s been happening, the beef industry has come through this really very well.”
Not surprisingly, processed meat sales in Ireland and the UK fell significantly since the horse meat revelations, with frozen burger sales falling by more than 40 per cent. “Consumers have lost trust in the category to a certain extent,” he says. “Some of the private label products in particular have yet to be replaced on the shelves and clearly consumers can only buy what’s available so you would expect that reduction in sales.”
The food industry is keen to put the horse meat saga behind it now and is focusing on ambitious targets in the Government’s Food Harvest 2020 strategy. It aims to increase food and drink exports to €12 billion by 2020.