I have every faith that Ireland can be a global leader in Sustainable Food Systems, but to achieve this we first need to fix the supply chain.
Food Vision 2030
In August, the Irish Government launched the ‘Food Vision 2030 – A World Leader in Sustainable Food Systems,’ setting out a roadmap with exports rising from €14 billion to €21 billion by 2030. The ambitious vision, left me questioning:
The impact of the New Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
Alongside the Food Vision 2030, the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine are still preparing the Strategic Plan for the CAP for Ireland 2023-2027. In Ireland, on average, CAP accounts for 56% of average family farm income through supported payments. The full implications of the new CAP are not known yet, but so far, the draft CAP has been met with concern by many farmers, with the increased focus on tackling climate change and meeting additional environmental conditions, it means farmers will need to do more than ever to access the vital CAP funding.
Farmers can’t go green if they’re in the red.
Farmers face economic hardship, with farmers’ income at around 40% lower compared to non-agricultural income. Currently the only way dairy farmers have any ability to control their revenue is to intensify their farming practices. Without much certainty or control over the price for their products, the only guaranteed way of increasing earnings is to focus on volume. If a dairy farmer increases herd size, they produce more milk, they increase their chances of earning more, despite fluctuating prices, but more cows result in higher emissions.
Without fixing the supply chain we are setting farmers up to fail, trapped in a catch-22. Quite simply, farmers can’t go green if they’re in the red. To have real environmental impact, the supply chains across the agriculture sector must first be made equitable and transparent to deliver economic security.
At Concept Dairy, our fundamental belief is that it is near impossible for the level of change required to be met while farmers are struggling to remain viable as a business, particularly smaller farmers. At the moment farmers are always forced to absorb all shocks to the market. The Concept Dairy Farmer App puts all farmers in control of their milk price, and with the financial security of locking-in their milk price when they choose, farmers have capacity to embrace and implement environmental and sustainability initiatives.
International market prices
Another determining factor, is global competition, and in particular from nations that are increasing herd sizes just as Irish farmers are being told to cut theirs to meet carbon emissions targets. For example, Brazil is planning to add 24 million cattle by 2030 and in China, Mengniu is setting up a facility to cater for a 100,000- cow dairy unit, with rumours that China plans to scale this up to 1.5million cows as soon as possible. There’s an inequity in this global picture that is leaving European farmers and processors feeling disgruntled at the imbalance.
Unless Irish politicians start taking a firmer stand and fighting our corner on the global stage addressing Carbon emissions across the board, we aren’t going to be able to stop other nations increasing production. But, if we can bring some equity to the situation through fair and transparent future pricing where the farmer is in control of their milk price, we can at least give our farmers economic sustainability and a chance of competing on a more even playing field.
The Food Vision 2030 report states: ‘If this ambitious objective is to be achieved, Ireland’s agri-food sector, along with Government and society, will have to make significant changes.’
At Concept Dairy we believe that the time has come to bring about change and create a more efficient, transparent, and fair dairy sector that benefits the whole supply chain. We are bringing a holistic solution through economic sustainability and commodities risk management applied through ICT, digitisation, and advanced market knowledge.
The hard-working farm families of Ireland want to achieve the vision of becoming a global leader in sustainable agri-food exports, but they need everyone across the supply chain to also be working towards this vision and supporting them, the primary producers, as without them, there is nothing to export.