Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action
Reduction of Carbon Emissions of 51% by 2030: Discussion (Resumed)
Mr. John Keane:
I thank Deputy Whitmore for the question. There are a number of stands to that and, if she does not mind, I will let Mr. Fitzgerald come in on that also. In terms of consumers identifying local produce and what the farmer is doing on the ground to produce a piece of beef, vegetables or a pound of butter, I will refer to where we are at the moment and move on to what we consider are improvements. I refer to any Irish consumer who buys produce that has been produced in Ireland. Dr. Moore touched on this earlier in terms of the Bord Bia quality assurance and the logo. That looks nice on a piece of produce on a shelf but we, Bord Bia and us as farmers, can do much more in terms of what that means and what work goes into having that stamp on a piece of produce.
From my point of view, as farmers - this will echo with Mr. Fitzgerald - there are about 300 requirements that we must meet on an annual or year-and-a-half audit from Bord Bia that assesses our farm in order to provide produce into that scheme. As Dr. Moore said, in terms of farms that are meeting a higher level of requirements or are derogation farms, those requirements are there also. On a practical level, for the consumer who goes into the farm, it is about headline items, as was touched on already, like the number of days at grass or days outside. It is in terms of animal friendly, animal welfare, animal housing, carbon footprint and the carbon navigator attached to the Bord Bia quality assurance mark that each farm gets when it carries out an audit. These are the on-farm actions that are ongoing to provide that. The consumer can get a sense of security from knowing that all that work is done behind the scenes by the farmer and from the Bord Bia assessment which determines where these farmers are at.
I note the role of the food ombudsman in the retail supplies, enacting the unfair trading practices legislation and guarding against those practices, and shortening supply chains and ensuring fairness of supply chains as well. In terms of food labelling and from a Macra na Feirme point of view, we would like to see efforts made to highlight what we do as farmers on both a carbon front and a wider sustainability front so that the story of what Irish farmers do can be told. Climate is hugely important, but we should include the water issue in Ireland and how efficient we are at using water in the production cycle. From a dairy point of view, 6 or 7 l of water are needed to produce 1 l of milk. Compare that with other countries in Europe, Asia or South America, it is upwards of 6,000, 7,000 or 8,000 l of water to produce that. The WHO has highlighted that water will be one of the restricting limiting factors by 2050 for world population growth. That is another strong element to our bow.
We have much to do in respect of biodiversity but we have a good story to tell in that respect. If we can link the Bord Bia aspect, the model from carbon, what we are doing on water quality and our sustainability measures and communicate that to consumers on food labelling, while acknowledging the label on a food item is very small, whether that be through additional storage, the use of the technology or the use of smartphones, all of those are steps we can take to provide reassurance and tell the consumer the story of Irish farming. It is a positive one. It is simply a matter of communicating that further. Mr. Fitzgerald is part of the signpost programme and he might touch briefly on how he sees that story being communicated.