The Irish food industry is set to benefit from opportunities arising from the UK government’s recently published Green Finance Strategy document. The document outlines numerous investment options that can be taken to drive sustainability across the British economy, including changes in land use policy. However, the document fails to address the issue of indigenous food security, which presents a win-win scenario for Irish farmers. As the UK’s overall food sufficiency stands at around 65%, the potential for Irish food companies to partner with UK supermarkets and other retail operations is immense.
The growing demand for land in the UK to produce green energy, while also delivering enhanced environmental and biodiversity-related benefits, is likely to further reduce the country’s food sufficiency. This presents a significant opportunity for the Irish food sector to fill the gap. However, to take advantage of this opportunity, Ireland needs a Taoiseach and a Minister for Agriculture who are committed to expanding food output while maintaining sustainable land use policies.
The real challenge facing Irish agriculture is how to make the best use of the crop nutrients the industry already produces. This challenge presents an opportunity to improve farm efficiency ratings and significantly reduce reliance on imported fertilisers. One way to achieve this is by making the best use of every slurry and farmyard manure source available in the country. The technology to extract phosphorous from animal slurries and farmyard manures is available, as demonstrated at a recent soils event in Co Wexford.
The UK’s fast declining food sufficiency presents a significant opportunity for Ireland’s farming and food sectors. Irish farmers can partner with UK retailers to fill the gap, but this requires a commitment to sustainable land use policies and the best use of crop nutrients. With the right leadership and investment, the Irish food industry can benefit tremendously from the UK’s sustainability drive.