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l-r: Tara McCarthy, CEO, Bord Bia; Michael Hoey, President, Irish Potato Federation; Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
Food Shortages

Balance needed in food production between affordability and climate-friendly, says minister

Charlie McConalogue was speaking at the launch of the World Potato Congress today.

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has said that farming will continue to grow more challenging in years to come due to climate change.

Speaking today at the opening of the World Potato Congress in the RDS, McConalogue said that a careful balance needs to be struck between keeping Irish produce affordable, and climate-friendly while also paying farmers fairly.

“I think for food production systems to be sustainable it’s important for there to be respect in each level of the supply chain, particularly for farmers, the primary producers. Regularly it’s the producer who gets squeezed when there are challenges.

“Obviously there are world markets and they determine prices but I think it’s going to be more challenging in years ahead to grow food, and to do it sustainably. The world population is increasing and the demand for food is increasing, but the challenges around producing it have grown. Particularly with regard to countries that are more vulnerable to climate change.”

The minister added that he will soon publish a bill establishing an Office for Fairness and Transparency in the Agrifood Sector “ and to ensure there’s a fair crack of the whip” for farmers.

The World Potato Congress will have more than 60 speakers and is set to be attended by up to one thousand delegates from over 60 countries.

Also speaking today was European Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, who acknowledged that food security was now a bigger issue for Europe than it had been for centuries.

He linked the grain blockade crisis in Ukraine with Ireland’s Great Famine saying: “177 years ago a lack of potatoes was the cause of a national tragedy here. Now we have a new situation because of unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine. 

“We need to reconsider our approach to food security and review our strategies. Potatoes are one of the possible solutions because of their sustainability.”

Last week the Department of Agriculture announced a €3 million investment to support the seed potato sector in recognition of the challenges faced by the sector. 

Seed potatoes are planted specifically to produce more potatoes, and since Brexit their importation from the UK to the EU has been banned.

Ireland is currently the only member state which holds a high health status under EU legislation for the growing of seed potatoes, which McConalogue believes will stand to Ireland’s benefit as the investment is used to enhance the sector.

“We need to put in place the infrastructure in terms of storage and machinery and into marketing. We need to get the sector to work together. It’s a significant investment to start with and it’s something I think the government will back in the coming years.”

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