I arrived in Ireland on the 1st June 2013 at the start of a warm and long Irish summer and shortly after the end of an extended and arduous winter. The fodder crisis was to the forefront of everyone’s thoughts; as was the revision of the Common Agricultural Policy. It was, however, not long before I started reading and hearing the words ‘Food Harvest 2020’. FH2020 was clearly a key directional driver of Ireland’s agriculture and food industries. As a way to introduce himself to the Irish agri-food sector I chose to investigate and appraise FH2020. This personal and independent review is the result.
The Review is heavily weighted towards the dairy sector. Since it was published in March 2014 the author has focused on the evolving Irish beef crisis as can be seen by some extensive blog postings. I have also prepared a couple of beef strategy discussion documents which remain unpublished. The intention is that they will soon evolve into a series of project proposals that will focus upon the development of a top-end-beef-market action plan for that proportion of the beef industry which wishes to focus on traditional, premium-quality beef production.
Interestingly, if one reads the authors views on how the Irish agricultural industry needs to evolve, there is a common approach evolving between the dairy and beef sectors. It is that both need to develop a twin-track strategy for going forwards. At present the agri-food industry as a whole is far too committed to a single premiumized-commodities-to-global-markets route. It is a route-to-market that the author believes is inappropriate for a significant proportion of the Irish agricultural sector and especially its smaller-scale, family farms. This is a theme that will be taken further shortly in a posting on the need for an 80:20 strategy for Irish farming.
In the meantime, anyone wishing to read my thoughts on FH2020 can download the contents, the summary, the review itself and the original FH2020 strategy via the links below.
FH2020 REVIEW CONTENTS
FH2020 REVIEW SUMMARY
FH2020 REVIEW REPORT
FOOD HARVEST 2020
THE SMALL PRINT
The author accepts that his review of FH2020 was written with the benefit of hindsight and that to an extent events have moved on since the original Food Harvest 2020 document was prepared. As a consequence it is likely that the author will have contradicted the opinions of others who, with the passing of time, may have chosen to revise their viewpoint. Others he simply may have contradicted. This is, sadly, one inevitable result of writing a review or previously published work.
Although in some ways the author’s thoughts will disagree with others, in part this will be due to how the parties have understood the objectives of FH2020. The author believes that he is in general agreement with how FH2020 envisions the future of the Irish agri-food industry but his concern is more about how the objectives of FH2020 have been subsequently interpreted and presented and how some within the industry have since pursued the FH2020 objectives.
The authors underlying belief is that any food industry is founded upon its conglomeration of farming businesses. In Ireland that means its family farms. Apart from these being the bedrock of farming, they are also the foundations of Ireland’s rural communities. They have to remain so. Any strategic direction established has to be based upon the existing farming structures and the constraints that they place upon the industry. The author’s primary conclusion is that these constraints have not been fully appreciated within the strategic planning framework of FH2020 and this will have consequences. It is for this reason that the author feels obligated to publish the entirety of what was initially written as a personal review.