Agriculture’s economic contribution is being ‘grossly underestimated’

January 30th, 2023 9:45 PM

By Southern Star Team

Tim Cullinan said farmers will not stand for a reduction in incomes or the destruction of livelihoods.

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EVERY 1% reduction in agricultural output will wipe €240m from the Irish economy.

The stark warning was shared by food economist Ciaran Fitzgerald, who was speaking at the recent IFA farming and climate summit in Thomond Park, Limerick.

‘Existing methodologies and portrayals grossly understate the economic contribution of the agri-food sector. Economic misrepresentation promotes the notion of low contribution and easy replacement. This has to change both within industry and political circles,’ he said.

‘The current approach completely ignores and overlooks the regional impact and actual expenditures made locally, which in the case of agriculture is significant,’ he added.

Tadhg Buckley, IFA director of policy/chief economist in his address outlined the range of national and EU policies facing Irish agriculture in the years ahead, which he said had inherent objectives of inhibiting food production rather than promoting it.

‘You’re talking 8% of total land area (excluding rough grazing and commonage) potentially lost to food production or undergoing a change in land use – 115,000ha gone for anaerobic digestion; 68,500ha for increased afforestation rates etc.

‘Land is already a scarce resource and the market in recent times has rocketed in anticipation of what is to come down the line. Policy makers need to tread carefully and fully understand the wider ramifications of their policies,’ he said.   

Meanwhile, IFA president Tim Cullinan accused the government of being less than honest in confronting the ‘carbon leakage’ issue – that’s the production of food outside Ireland at a higher environmental cost.

Mr Cullinan  said that while Irish farmers will work to reduce emissions and address climate challenges, they will not stand for a reduction in their incomes or the destruction of their livelihoods and way of life.

Outlining how imports of food from Brazil into the European Union increased by 47% in 2022 he said: ‘The reality is that reducing food production in Ireland will lead to carbon leakage as food will be produced in other countries at a higher environmental cost. Meanwhile, we risk devastating our own sector with significant economic and social consequences.’

He said the aim of the climate summit was to start closing some of the huge information gaps.

‘IFA recognises the climate challenge. Our members are keen to play their part. However, the Minister must be in no doubt that it cannot be at the expense of their livelihoods,’ he said.

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