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Minister Smith welcomes visiting Italian Food Students and emphasises importance of Irish Food Industry

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today welcomed visiting students from the University of Gastronomy, Pollenza, Italy.  The students, who are completing their third year studying Gastronomy, are on a ten-day field study, which has been organised by Slow Food Italy and Bord Bia.  The trip will provide students with an overview of the importance of the agri-food sector in Ireland, with an emphasis on Ireland's natural resources and sustainably produced food. Bord Bia will also give a presentation on their strategies in promoting Irish food internationally.

Minister Smith emphasised the importance of the food industry which, he said, "accounted for turnover of some €24 billion and eight per cent of GDP and 160,000 jobs.  Exports to over 170 markets around the world accounted for a third of Ireland's net foreign earnings from manufacturing industry".

Speaking at the Greenhouse - the former ENFO building - Minister Smith said "grassland farming, good husbandry and high standards right through the food chain are key to the agri-food sector in Ireland and are the factors that give Ireland such a natural advantage in food production".

The Minister added that the beef, dairy and dairy ingredients are the most significant agri-food subsectors in terms of sales and exports.  Irish beverages including two EU protected Geographic Indications - Irish Whiskey and Irish Cream - are renowned worldwide.  Seafood exports to international markets, mushroom exports to the UK and a host of artisan products from farmhouse cheese and speciality meats to chocolate, jams and bakery goods - many rooted in the terroir and history of particular counties bore witness to the Ireland the Food Island reputation.

The Minister was addressing the students prior to their visit to some of the country's most well renowned food and drink producers including the Old Kilbeggan Distillery, Gubbeen farm, the Woodcock Smokery House, Crowe Farm Meats and Ballymaloe Cookery School. They will also undertake a number of field visits to Cloughjordan eco village, Lough Derg House and "Trading Places" author Michael Kelly's homestead, the Waterford Institute of Hospitality and Culinary Arts and the English Market, Cork. They will meet with local farmers and fishermen as well as representatives from Dawn Meats and Omega Beef. Dr. Colin Sage, UCC, will give the students an overview of where Irish food comes from and why locally produced food is important.

Note for Editors 

The University of Gastronomic Sciences, Pollenzo, was founded in 2004 by Slow Food in cooperation with the Italian region of Piedmont and Emilia Romagna, and is a partner organisation to Slow Food. The University offers a suite of subjects with the aim of creating gastronomes, or professionals with a whole system approach to the food that we eat. An essential part of the curriculum are a number of 'stages' or study trips (field seminars) which give the students hands on experience of a practice, e.g. bread, beer or coffee or a country, as is the case of the Irish stage.

Date Released: 23 June 2010