Written answers

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Agriculture Industry

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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381. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the current strength of the dairy herd; the degree if any to which it has fluctuated or likely to so do in the future, with particular reference to displacement by other enterprises in order to comply with the meeting of emissions targets; if due regard is being had for the possibility of a food shortage in the near to mid-future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12196/23]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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I remain confident that the outlook for the Irish dairy Industry remains positive. The Irish Dairy Industry is one of our largest and most profitable industries. In 2022, Irish farmers produced over 8.8 billion litres of milk, an increase of over 2 billion litres since the abolition of quotas in 2015. Total Irish milk production increased by 0.7% percent in 2022 year on year. Irish Dairy exports exceeded the €7 billion mark for the first time in 2022 and reached 130 different markets last year.

The number of Irish dairy cows currently stands at 1.65 million head. CSO statistics show that the total number of dairy cows in the country has increased every year for the last five years. There has also been continuous growth in the average dairy herd size since 2011, rising from 64 to 92 cows per milking herd currently. It should however be noted that increased production is driven by other factors as well as an increased herd, for example improved genetics.

I established the Food Vision Dairy Group last year to advance the actions for the dairy sector identified in the Food Vision 2030 strategy, taking account of the requirement for the sector to contribute to achieving the targets set for agriculture emissions in the Climate Act process.

The first priority for the Group was to chart a pathway to achieving the legally binding target of a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by 2030, equivalent to a reduction of 5.75 MT of carbon dioxide equivalent.

The Dairy Group submitted their final report in October 2022, which has been published on my Department’s website. The report identified measures which could contribute to reducing emissions. The publication was timely as it then served to inform the Climate Action Plan 2023 which was launched in December 2022. The implementation roadmap for actions outlined in the Plan will be contained in a supplementary annex of actions which is scheduled to be published imminently. My Department will work collaboratively with the other Departments and agencies involved to implement these priority actions.

Ireland is among the most food secure countries in the world and ranks second of 113 countries assessed for food security, according to the latest Global Food Security Index released last September. Ireland is part of the EU single market and participates in the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), which is the key mechanism for ensuring food security throughout Europe. Increased input costs in the food supply chain are inflating food prices currently. Therefore, while there is no food shortage, there is a food availability issue for those on lower incomes. The EU communication "Safeguarding food security and reinforcing the resilience of food systems” has set out actions in the three areas of security, stability, and sustainability. The EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council of Ministers will continue to focus on these core areas and to support the work of the recently established European Food Security Crisis preparedness and response Mechanism (EFSCM).


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