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Smith to head Food Harvest 2020 Implementation Group

Speaking at the official opening of the Virginia Agricultural Show in County Cavan on Saturday 31 July, Brendan Smith TD, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food again re-enforced the importance of the Food Harvest 2020 report as the key to growing the value of the agri-food, fisheries and forestry sector by a third over the coming decade and increasing exports to €12 billion.

Underlying the priority with which the Government considers the report, the Minister said that he would be personally heading the implementation group to ensure that the ambitious targets in Food Harvest 2020 can be met in the shortest possible time. "I want to emphasise my personal commitment and that of the Government to the achievement of these ambitious but realisable growth targets" the Minister said.  "For the dairy sector which is so central to the Virginia Show, this plan targets a 50% increase in output.  This would enhance the value of primary output by €700 million, as well as downstream benefits in the form of increased dairy products values, export earnings and employment" the Minister added.

The Minister also complimented the high standard of Holstein/Friesian cows in the Baileys Champion cow competition, now in its 27th year. "The continued loyal sponsorship of both Baileys and Glanbia Ingredients, Virginia, has elevated this competition to one highly regarded by breeders around the country.  It is one of Ireland's most prestigious dairy livestock events" he said, "and the kind of quality that is being rewarded here today represents the brightest future of an industry that has enormous potential for expansion and development".

The Minister also drew attention to the very positive brand image that Irish dairy products have worldwide, and the tremendous potential to capitalise on that image, particularly in Asian markets where economic expansion and increasing levels of disposable income were leading to increased demand for dairy and other food products.

"Irish food and beverage exports to Asian Markets were valued at €279 million in 2009," he said, "and there is tremendous potential for developing and expanding those markets, with consequent benefits for employment in Ireland.  In that context, it is essential that Irish food business operators take a strategic approach to developing Asian markets. They can be assured that in doing so, they will have the full support of my Department and its agencies, which will continue to be pro-active in building the kind of relationships that are critical to doing business in those countries. The road map of development as set out in Food Harvest 2020 will be a crucial factor in this process".    

Complimenting the decision of the organisers of the show to move it to a Saturday this year, Minister Smith noted that the show attracts exhibitors from every county in Ireland and from further a-field to compete in over 450 classes on the day.  This show not only boasts some of Irelands finest livestock, but also has a wide selection of competitions for garden produce, home cooking, arts and crafts which attract a high standard of entry from competitors both young and old.

Minister Smith welcomed the generous local sponsorship provided by a host of loyal sponsors. The Minister also said "Virginia show has grown to become one of the largest shows in the country. This is due to the hard work of the local organising committee under the President Ned Duffy. The organisers have shown great initiative and enterprise again this year in the quality of the programme for the day".

In conclusion, Minister Smith took the opportunity of wishing the organizing committee, the exhibitors, the sponsors, the many visitors, and indeed everybody involved with the Virginia show an enjoyable day out.

Date Released: 31 July 2010