Fair policy and funding needed to achieve hugely challenging climate obligations- DII

July 28, 2022

Irish dairy has an opportunity to further increase and enhance its competitive advantage in global markets, according to Dairy Industry Ireland (DII), the Ibec association representing the Irish dairy and Specialised nutrition sector. It can do this with meaningful and advanced climate action while sustaining the economic opportunity for Ireland, and in rural Ireland particularly.

The industry and its family farm suppliers have been driving programs for some time. It has further ambitious programs set out for the next decade and wishes to be integral to Ireland’s climate and economic journey.

It is vital that Government quickly delivers clarity on accounting mechanisms and give Irish agriculture ‘credit where credit’ is due for the enormous work done across the sector to get us where we want to go.

Allied with that, Government must move quickly and put in place the mechanisms to help Irish agriculture realise its ambition of balancing environmental targets while protecting the economic viability of the sector, fundamental tenets of the new Climate Bill.

Over the course of 2022, DII have been participating in the Food Vision Dairy group with Government and other stakeholders, and we aim to be the very first sector of the Irish economy to have a plan to map our climate bill obligations.

To achieve this, clear funding and policy mechanisms to help farmers meet these targets must be set out urgently by Government through Carbon Sink farming, National funding and EU schemes through the Green Deal & CAP.

The Irish dairy industry is investing in technology and process improvement to meet changing consumer preferences and environmental obligations (including water quality and biodiversity), but clarity and fairness on targets and carbon accounting treatments are a critical start to this journey.

The prize for achieving this balance is enormous. A 2021 EY study commissioned by DII showed that Irish dairy alone, in the teeth of Covid, the Ukraine Crisis and Brexit, generated €13.1bn in the state in 2020. That output was heavily concentrated in rural areas and supported the equivalent of over 55,000 full time equivalent jobs.

The report also detailed Ireland’s natural competitive advantage in producing dairy, both under economic and environmental metrics. Ireland’s geographic location and temperate climate provide a competitive advantage in growing grass, which facilitates an outdoor grazing dairy model.

Commenting on the Government figures, Director of Dairy Industry Ireland Conor Mulvihill said: “While the targets set for agriculture and Industry are hugely challenging, we welcome clarity and we will actively work with our suppliers and staff in our processing facilities to achieve metric based improvements.

In recent years the Irish dairy industry has navigated Brexit, Covid and the Ukraine Crisis and has come out even stronger, delivering for every parish on the island. While we do not underestimate the extreme challenge of these targets given existing technologies, we will strain every sinew to achieve them with our partners. All the targets set out by government are a challenge that will require a mindset for transformational change by all parts of society including the dairy industry.

We call on government to give appropriate supports to enable us to positively achieve these targets and protect the social and economic sustainability of rural Ireland.”