The medium to long term prospects are extremely positive for those who farm in Ireland. Given the projected 50% increase in the global population between now and 2050, Irish agri food can play a key role in feeding the world over the next three decades and beyond. The industry already exports 85% of its total output, a figure that is set to grow as the impact of the Harvest 2020 strategy continues to gather momentum.
Adding to this good new story for Irish agriculture is the projected growth of the middle classes in countries such as China. This will lead to an increase in demand for animal protein based diets – across all ages – and specifically for high quality infant formula and other dairy products, where children are concerned.
A significant increase in the level of volatility has become a consistent feature of many commodity markets over recent years. Milk prices reached record highs during 2013/14, only to fall back to levels well below the cost of production in Ireland less than 18 months thereafter. Similarly, Irish tillage farmers have had to absorb the significant falls in world grain prices that have been recorded over the past two years. Coping more effectively with price volatility will be a key challenge for Irish agriculture and farms in Ireland moving forward.
The need to reduce the level of greenhouse gases produced by Irish agriculture can be regarded in a similar light. In December 2015 Ireland signed up to the COP 21 agreement signed in Paris. It aims to restrict future increases in average global temperatures to 2.0°C. As the largest single contributor to Ireland’s greenhouse gas production levels, agriculture will have no option but to come up with effective mitigation strategies, where these emissions are concerned.
Brexit is another challenge facing the agri food sectors on the island of Ireland. The imposition of a trade deal between the UK and the EU-27, which would see the introduction of border tariffs, will create major problems from the perspective of cross-border trade.