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Agri-Food Sector will play Key Role in Economic Recovery - Smith

The Irish agri-food sector is well positioned to play a central role in the export led recovery of the Irish economy, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr. Brendan Smith, TD.

Speaking at a trade function in Milan attended by Irish food and drink company representatives, key Italian clients, and key contacts from business, tourism and food sectors, Minister Smith highlighted the fact that in order to meet the demand of a growing population, the world will need to increase food production by over 70% and that this scenario offered great opportunity for Ireland.

"The manufacture of food and drink products is our main indigenous industry, with 800 companies employing over 45,000 people and producing over a third of our net export earnings from primary and manufacturing sectors. Although there are at present many challenges facing the sector in terms of international competitiveness and environmental sustainability, there are also enormous opportunities opening up in the EU and global food and drink markets", Minister Smith said.

The Government is committed to ensuring that the agri-food sector would be fully positioned to exploit these opportunities to the full, according to the Minister. "I launched a new medium-term strategy process some weeks ago, which is being driven by a group of high level players from the sector, including farmers, primary processors, food and drink product manufactures and retailers. This 2020 Strategy group have been given a tight timeline and will be reporting back to the Government by 1 June and it is intended to act speedily on its recommendations so that the Irish-food sector will be at the vanguard of our export led recovery", he said.

"I want to emphasise how important I think it is that we ensure joined-up thinking all along the food chain from the consumer to the farmer and in both the public and private sectors.  We need a strategy for the whole sector, that will focus all our efforts," the Minister concluded

Date Released: 16 March 2010