Thursday, 26 September 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I will give the Senator an interesting statistic, which I think neatly summaries the distance we have travelled. In 2010, the value of Irish agrifood exports outside of the European Union was €1.8 billion. In 2018, this value was closer to €3.5 billion such that in a relatively short time there has been substantial progress made in terms of gaining a foothold in these emerging markets. In regard to Food Wise 2025 and the regions referred to earlier, the Asian market in particular was identified as one where there is a growing middle-class population with increasing levels of disposable income and westernised dietary habits. This presents opportunities for us.
In the context of the success we are having and the impetus that is necessary in this area in light of the UK's decision to leave the European Union, I am conscious of the concerns of the primary producers in terms of where they gain in all of this. The challenge is to ensure we sustain the edifice that has become the export value and volume of Irish agrifood in 180 different countries worldwide. It is critical that we maintain the supply base. We can only do that by ensuring that those involved in primary production are getting a just shake-out. That is challenging. We have had issues in recent days and weeks regarding the challenges in the beef sector. I would like to think that was a watershed moment. Business as usual will not cut it in that context. We need to remain conscious of that as we set about creating a new framework for a partnership approach that is very different to what we have had up to now.