Achieving the growth targets for the agri food sector as set out in the Food Harvest 2020 report has the potential to make a major contribution to rural development in Ireland over the next ten years.
Speaking at the National Rural Development conference in Athlone recently, Teagasc Director Professor Gerry Boyle said: “Increasing the volume and value of agricultural production will increase farm incomes and improve the viability of farms. Growing primary production will also help to create additional employment in existing food industries and create new jobs as new food businesses develop.”
Commenting on the elements of the recently published CAP reform proposals which could assist rural development, Professor Boyle said: ”For Ireland, two particular issues are paramount; encouraging younger farmers and improving farm viability. The measures to address farm fragmentation could assist with the development of viable rural farm businesses in the future. The EU Commission proposal on a farm and business development measure to support the initial establishment of young farmers could also be positive.”
Highlighting the importance of the Artisan and Speciality Food sector, Dr Cathal O Donoghue, Teagasc, said: “There are currently 400 speciality food companies employing over 3,000 people with an estimated value of €475 million. This exciting artisan food sector is growing by 10 per cent annually.”
David Meredith of Teagasc pointed to the benefits of integrated rural tourism development. He said: “This requires strong links between the ’3As’ - Activities, Attractions and Accommodation. Linking a tourist activity to local accommodation and to local food suppliers, enhances the tourism product and creates a win-win situation for all involved.”
The National Rural Development conference entitled ‘Towards 2020 - Building a Vibrant Rural Economy’, was organised by Teagasc and the National Rural Network.