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Prof. Gerry Boyle  Teagasc Prof. Gerry Boyle Teagasc Document Transcript

  • A Sustainable, Resilient and Secure Food System in 2031: How Research and Innovation can help Rural Areas meet Growing Market Opportunities with particular reference to Ballyhoura Development Paper presented by Professor Gerry Boyle Director of Teagasc Ballyhoura Rural Development ConferenceThe Future of Rural Areas to 2031 – A Positive and Integrated Examination of Challenges and Opportunities to Achieve Socially and Economically Sustainable Communities Charleville Park Hotel 12th November 2010
  • ABSTRACTGlobal demand for food is set to surge over the coming decades in light of increasingpopulation, income and per capita consumption trends. Meeting this demand will challengeglobal food systems as they also address climate change and resource scarcity whiledeveloping new and more sustainable ways of producing the additional food needed. This globallandscape presents opportunities and challenges for food producers in Ireland at all levels fromthe larger export-oriented companies to the smaller local producers. The US-based ‘MiddleAgriculture’ movement is presented as a possible model to address the viability problem of themany Irish farms. Ballyhoura has a strong integrated food production system that can be furtherenhanced to support the establishment of small and speciality food producers as part of abroader strategy linked to the environment and tourism.INTRODUCTIONThe scale of the challenge of producing enough food to feed a global population of over 8billion in 2031 is now clear. Given the rate of population growth, combined with increasing percapita food consumption, climate change and pressures being exerted on land, it is clear thatwe will have to produce more food sustainably. We also need to provide the correctinformation for people to make more informed choices about what they eat.Ireland’s food system at national and local level cannot be isolated from these globalchallenges: indeed, global food supplies and prices are of growing importance in all countriesand food security in Ireland will increasingly have to be addressed within a global marketplace through the development of a more innovative and competitive industry. This willrequire action at all levels of the food system. High quality research and innovation will becritical in meeting these challenges, as well as promoting a thriving business sector toincrease economic productivity and sustainability.My focus in this paper is on the actions and strategies that could be adopted by one smallrural area in Ireland, namely Ballyhoura, to enable it develop a resilient and sustainable foodindustry capable of overcoming the challenges and grasping the opportunities arising from the 2
  • dramatic changes underway in the broader global food landscape. In the opening section ofthe paper, I will examine this broader global context, before providing a brief overview of theIrish food system and of the policies and strategies now being put in place. In the finalsection, I will explore how Ballyhoura might position itself with respect to these developmentsand, in particular, how its local artisan and speciality food sector can be developed.THE GLOBAL FOOD CONTEXTFood security will be one of this century’s key global challenges. FAO projections envisagethat global food demand will rise by around 50% by 2030, driven by a global population set toreach around 8.3 billion over this period accompanied by increased per capita consumption.Moreover, consumption patterns are changing as incomes grow around the world1. The trendtowards more “western style” diets in emerging economies, with higher levels of meat, fishand dairy consumption, will significantly increase the pressures on land and water resources,and create new market opportunities for countries capable of producing surpluses of animal-related products.Increasing food production to meet this rising demand will lead to major environmentalchallenges, both at a global level, via the contribution of agricultural and food systems togreenhouse gas emissions, and more locally, such as through pressures on biodiversity,ecosystems, soil and water. At the same time, global climate change will exacerbate thesefactors and bring added pressures on food production in many countries.Past successes in food production have resulted in significant increases in per capita foodavailability, but this success has come at a high cost to the environment and has notaddressed the issue of access to adequate food by all of the world’s population. Future foodsecurity must be based on ensuring fair access to adequate food supplies for all and this foodmust be produced in a manner that helps sustain the environment, preserve naturalresources and supports livelihoods of farmers and rural populations around the world. There 2is an urgent need for what the Royal Society calls the ‘sustainable intensification’ of globalagriculture in which productivity is increased without adverse environmental impact and1 J. Kearney, Food consumption trends and drivers, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B2010, 365, 2793-2807 3
  • without having to bring significantly more of the world’s declining stock of suitable land intoproduction.`A further challenge stems from rising obesity and other diet-related diseases that arebecoming increasingly problematic national and global health issues. The WHO projects thatby 2015 approximately 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will beobese,3 and obesity is increasing at a rapid rate in low and middle income countries,particularly in urban areas. In the more mature EU and US markets, consumers willincreasingly seek for and pay a premium for foods with verifiable health, wellness andsustainability attributes.INTERNATIONAL COMMODITY MARKETSInternational commodity markets have been characterised by a high level of price volatility inrecent years and this trend is expected to continue in the short to medium term,4 driven bysupply shifts, climate change, energy prices and policies (e.g. commitments to biofuelproduction) and developments in agriculture and trade policies. However, overall the globaloutlook for agricultural commodity prices is positive in the medium term. 5 In the long term, theprojections are for the continued growth of agriculture up to 20506. From an Irish perspective,the positive medium to long term market prospects are founded on the flourishing globaldemand for dairy products, a rising shortfall in EU beef supplies, growing food demand fromdeveloping countries, and the specific food demands of an ageing and more affluentpopulation in the EU and US.IRELAND UP TO 20312 The Royal Society, Reaping the Benefits. Science and the Sustainable Intensification of GlobalAgriculture, The Royal Society, London, 2009.3 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/index.html4 Chatham House, Food Futures: Rethinking UK Strategy, Royal Institute of International Affairs,London, 2009.5 OECD/FAO, Agricultural Outlook 2010-2019, OECD/FAO, Paris, 20106 FAO, World Agriculture: Towards 2030/2050, FAO, Rome, 2006. 4
  • Two years ago Teagasc launched the results of a comprehensive Foresight exercise, in thecourse of which all of the major stakeholders came together to identify a new long-term visionfor Ireland’s agri-food sector and its technological requirements7. The report envisioned ourfuture farmers and primary processors in 2030 as being key elements of an ‘IrishBioeconomy’ producing not only food, but also meeting energy and fibre needs and a range ofother renewable bio-resources. On the food processing side, we identified huge potential inareas such as infant foods, functional foods and foods for health, whilst our farms and opencountryside were seen as providing valuable environmental goods and services. Weenvisaged a bright future for farming, food processing and related bio-based industries, builtaround a well-trained workforce capable of applying the very best technologies developedand delivered by our research organisations.A recent Forfas report 8provides an assessment of the economic and social implications forIreland over the next 15 years arising from global-level developments. The report projects anincrease in population by up to 60% to over seven million by 2040, and says it could evenconceivably reach nine million by then. (The latter figure may now be unlikely in light of theimpact of the current recession on immigration and emigration). The country will then have ahigher proportion of older people and higher dependency ratios. The report also suggests thatthe Irish economy has the potential to prosper over the next two decades, quoting the ESRI’sexpectations of a possible return to growth in 2012, and achieving growth rates of up to fiveper cent per annum to 2015. These figures point to a growing domestic market in the mediumterm for high quality food products.FUTURE POLICY AND TRADE FRAMEWORKThe Common Agricultural Policy will provide the main policy framework for development ofthe primary agriculture and agri-food industries to 2020 and beyond. Formal negotiationshave yet to begin on the CAP after 2013 and it is unlikely that full details of any newarrangements for the CAP will be agreed until late 2012. Thus, for the present, there is a7 Teagasc, Towards 2030: Teagasc’s Role in Transforming Ireland’s Agri-Food Sector and the WiderBioeconomy, Teagasc, Carlow, 2008.8 Forfas, Sharing our Future: Ireland 2025. Strategic Requirements for Enterprise Development ,Dublin, 2009. 5
  • degree of uncertainty as to the level and shape of future support for the sector. There ispressure in the context of new reform to strengthen the link between payments to farmers tothe achievement of more public good objectives in the areas of environment, landscape,biodiversity and animal welfare.With respect to the specific measures within the CAP, it is important to emphasise the need tomaintain the focus on enhancing our competitiveness and ensuring the long-termsustainability of the sector, as well as addressing situations of extreme price volatility in orderto secure supply.The international trade policy framework, as determined though WTO and regional tradeagreements, is also of enormous importance to the sector. It is, therefore, vital that Ireland’skey agri-food interests continue to be fully reflected in the input to these negotiations.FOOD HARVEST 2020The recently published Food Harvest 20209 report has outlined a development strategy for theagri-food sector in the coming years. It paints a picture of the future where the Irish agri-foodindustry grows “sustainably through the delivery of high quality, safe and naturally basedproduce.” (p.3). The report presents a vision for the agri-food sector that foresees“development of new working relationships in the food chain, piloting new product streams,targeting resources at new markets, enhancing levels of productivity and competitiveness,and developing leadership positions across a range of sectors.” (p.4). Underpinning thisstrategy is increasing output of key commodities and growth in the value of these productsthrough development of value added food products.A central message is that the ambitious growth targets set can only be realised by sustainedinvestment in ideas, knowledge and skills, and by encouraging innovation and creativity.These are key to achieving international competitiveness, responding to the changing needsof the market and the consumer, enhancing the sector’s environmental sustainability anddeveloping value-added foods on the home and international markets.9 Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Food Harvest 2020. A Vision for Irish Agri-Foodand Fisheries, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Dublin, 2010. 6
  • THE IRISH FOOD SYSTEMAgri-food is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry as well as its most global, reaching over 170markets around the world. Significantly, its relative importance to our economy has grownsteadily over the last decade: in 2002, it accounted for 7 per cent of total Irish exports, while,in 2007, the figure was 10 per cent10. And because of its low import content, which seesalmost 75% of inputs sourced locally, the wider agri-food- related sector accounts for 32% ofnet foreign earnings for all primary and manufacturing industries.11Food safety and security are set to become much bigger issues at global level and withvolatile food commodity prices, the agri-food sector will continue to be an important part of thenational economy and of strategic relevance in terms of food security. 12 As we look ahead to2031, our agricultural industry will be increasingly seen as providing us with a valuable bufferagainst the unpredictability of global food supply and prices. However, for the industry tocontinue to make a strategic contribution will require it to be increasingly innovative andcompetitive.Ireland’s food industry is well positioned to meet expectations of long- term sustainability, andto take advantage of current and emerging market trends. Our natural and green imageprovides the basis for an integrated approach to sustainable food production, and the industrymust develop a strategy that can realise the potential that sustainable production, distributionand consumer sentiment offers.Prospects for the dairy sector in the medium to long term are positive. Given projections forsignificantly increased demand, the abolition of EU milk quotas in 2015 opens a realopportunity for the Irish dairy sector for increased milk production. The sector also possesses10 Bord Bia, Strategic Priorities: Growing the Success of Irish Food, Drink and Horticulture 2009-11,Bord Bia, Dublin, 200911 B Riordan, The Net Contribution of the Agri-Food Sector to the Inflow of Funds into Ireland: ANew Estimate, Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Dublin, 2008.12 Forfas, Sharing our Future: Ireland 2025. Strategic Requirements for Enterprise Development,Dublin, 2009. 7
  • a significant cost advantage in the form of an environmentally sustainable rain- fed grass-based production system, which allows milk to be produced efficiently for much of the year.At this point in time, when such emphasis is being placed on export growth to lead us out ofour current economic difficulties, the international orientation of our food industry, its successin growing exports, and its potential for further development uniquely positions the sector tounderpin the national goal of sustainable economic renewal.In realising these opportunities, Ireland will need to respond to the same global challengesand pressures already referred to. For example, farmers will need to adapt and innovate todeal with climate changes, biodiversity action plans and farming regulations, particularly newregulations in the area of nitrates, revised fertiliser rules, mycotoxin appraisal for grainassurance, and tighter restrictions in licensing and use of pesticides. Food manufacturers,processors, distributors and retailers will need to be more resource efficient and tackle wastethroughout the food system, and to further reduce food safety hazards and risks (includingfrom imports). Rising food and input prices have sharpened attention on the need for moreefficient resource use throughout farming and food systems to increase productivity.The need for research and innovation is clear in order to respond to these challenges.However, many of these challenges cannot be addressed by a continuation of the thinkingand approaches of the past. Agricultural and food research is also being asked to addressissues that are both multi- and inter-disciplinary. New technologies (ICT, nanotechnologies,biotechnology, etc.) will become increasingly important. New approaches to internationalcompetitiveness will be required that place a much greater emphasis on innovation, flexibleresponses to rapidly changing market demands, and producing a wide range of food and non-food products and services. We will, therefore, have to progress well beyond the traditionalunderstanding of agriculture and agriculture research to deal effectively with these demands.BUILDING LINKS BETWEEN FOOD PRODUCTION AND THE BROADER ECONOMY TO DELIVERRESILIENCE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT – THE CASE OF BALLYHOURA 8
  • The principal messages to take from this global overview is that food security will become apriority issue for all countries in the lead up to 2030 and that the food needed to feed agrowing population will have to be produced in a very different way in the future. Resourcessuch as land, water, energy and fertilisers are becoming increasingly scarce and will have tobe used more sparingly. The impact of climate change and the need to preserve biodiversitywill add to the need for new approaches. In this scenario, the production and distribution oflocal foods takes on a new significance.BALLYHOURA’S AGRI-FOOD SECTORHaving considered the overarching drivers of change in the agri-food sector that will shapeboth farming, the food industry and the rural economy in the years to come, this sectionexplores how Ballyhoura might position itself with respect to these developments. Emphasisis placed on using local food resources to increase local resilience and facilitate thedevelopment of the area’s economy.An assessment of the Geodirectory establishes that, as of 2008, there were 5,499 enterprisesin the area, of which 2,899 were farms. The assessment identified a further 175 food or agri-supply, including vets, businesses and 88 food retail outlets. Farms in the Ballyhoura are, ingeneral, larger than the national average, with many between 50 – 80 Ha (CSO, 2000).Relatively few are greater than 80 ha. The average farm size in 2000 was 35.5 ha. This isslightly larger than the national figure of 31 ha. Most of Ballyhoura’s farms are orientatedtowards dairy and beef production.Taken together, the data from the Census of Agriculture and the Geodirectory indicate thatthere are strong linkages between food production, on the one hand, and food processorsand ancillary suppliers, on the other. A number of towns within the area are particularlydependent on agri-food enterprises, particularly Mitchelstown. As the agri-food sector inIreland has restructured and consolidated over the past decade, these locations have beenparticularly exposed to job losses (Breeo Foods/Dairygold). These developments havecompounded the impact of the economic downturn on the area. 9
  • The economic and policy environment within which farming operates has undergonesignificant change over the course of the past decade. The next decade will bring theequivalent, if not greater changes, with further opening up of the EU and global food markets,on the one hand, and deregulation of food production on the other, i.e. abolition of milkquotas. For many farmers within the Ballyhoura area this holds the opportunity to grow theirenterprises for the first time in many years. Yet simultaneous to these developments, farmersare faced with increasing restrictions associated with environmental concerns. Opportunitiesto strengthen farm businesses through diversification are also opening up as key consumermarkets develop. These include bio-energy and bio-fuels, production of food for nichemarkets and the provision of environmental services. Underpinning these developments is, asa consequence of current social and economic challenges, a renewed emphasis on the ruraleconomy and its potential to contribute to national social and economic development andgrowth of export earnings.One of the exciting opportunities to emerge from these various developments is that of aniche market for direct sales to consumers and for quality speciality local foods. Ballyhoura’sagri-food sector can, whilst contributing to exports, build on its present capacity to producehigh quality foods through the development of local food systems and niche market products.In setting out a future orientated perspective of food in Ballyhoura Country, my focus will beon the potential of these aspects of the local food economy. This is not to ignore theimportance of the large number of farms and associated businesses that are and will continueto make valuable contributions to economic development and growth both within the area andnationally.THE SMALL FOOD BUSINESS SECTOR IN IRELANDGrowing consumer demand for speciality food products, a desire for local produce combinedwith a strong entrepreneurial spirit, has resulted in the rise in the number of small foodcompanies operating in Ireland. These companies are supplying a speciality food market inIreland with an estimated output valued at some €475 million at retail selling prices, are 10
  • growing at ten per cent annually and currently employ about 3,000 people. 13 Most of thesecompanies are owner managed, in many cases have a strong farming basis and tend to covera diverse range of products.Artisan producers usually source their supplies locally and surveys show that spend to valuein the locality for artisan produce is about twice that for spend from supermarket foodproducts. Also 72% of Irish consumers agree that food produced locally results in higherproduct quality (Bord Bia).Organic produce has close links with the artisan sector. It is a growing sector, with about 70%of organic produce imported suggesting local supply opportunities exist. According to newresearch, the volume of Irish organic food sales has increased year on year by 13.2 percent,reaching a value of €124 million in the year to July 2009, compared to €104 million in the yearto July 2008. (Source: Bord Bia TNS July 2009). The report also showed that an increasingnumber of people had started buying organic products on a more regular basis in recentyears.A feature of the artisan sector is the wide range of routes to market that exist. These includefarm shops, box schemes, farmer markets, independent shops and delis, catering/hospitalitysector, and more recently, the larger retailers are providing opportunities for artisans todisplay their products. This gives some level of proofing against non- payment or a particularmarket outlet disappearing. There is optimism in the sector. A recent survey of stall holdersat farmers’ markets carried out by Teagasc showed that respondents are very positive aboutthe long- term viability of farmer markets and many plan on expanding into retailer outlets andother direct selling routes14.However, while there are many opportunities for artisan and speciality food businesses thereare also many challenges for the sector. These businesses by tradition are often part-time,13 Bord Bia, Strategic Priorities: Growing the Success of Irish Food, Drink and Horticulture 2009-11,Bord Bia, Dublin, 200914 Griffin, C., Technical Needs Survey of Artisan and Speciality Food Producers Selling at Farmers’Markets, Teagasc, Dublin, 2009. 11
  • small scale, labour and time demanding and in many cases family run. Having both thetechnical and business expertise necessary to be successful within a small unit is difficult.The consumer, however, does not accept a less safe product or a product which hasinconsistent quality because the food producer is small scale. The food safety problemencountered by the pork meat sector just twelve months ago shows how damaging a foodsafety- related product recall can be in terms of both cost and reputation to a sector.There are however many exciting developments in food, particularly in the healthy/naturalfoods area, but consumers and legislators require proof of any health claims being made.Examples are consumer demands for removal of non-natural additives and for low saltproducts. This is referred to as providing clean label foods. Removing salt or otherpreservatives which have been in use as long as food has been preserved poses challengesin terms of food safety, taste, colour and even yield and texture. Therefore, food producersand food researchers need to provide product development solutions that will benefitconsumers, meet legislative requirements and provide an economic return for themanufacturer.Food Harvest 2020 pays particular attention to the emergence of the local and artisan foodsectors. Particular emphasis is given to the recognition that, for Irish agriculture to createemployment, it must “extend beyond the strict definition of ‘food production’ to incorporatecultural products linked to the environment and tourism.” (p.12). A number of key goals areestablished within the report pertinent to the development of local food systems and foodbased micro-enterprises including: – Promote sustainable and locally embedded food procurement policies and systems. – Promote and broaden the opportunities, including local markets, for consumers and visiting tourists to purchase local food. – Conserve and promote distinctive local food traditions at EU level and with bodies such as the TASTE Council and Slow Food. 12
  • The report also highlights the integrated nature of rural tourism development which draws ona local milieu incorporating routes through the countryside (walking, cycling and horse ridingtrails) and the craft industry. Of far greater significance is the recognition that an “integratedagri-food-tourism strategy has the potential to serve a growing demographic of touristsinterested in authentic, culinary experiences from food trails to cookery courses.” (p.12).BALLYHOURA’S BEST: SERVING LOCAVORE’S*Successful development of local food supply systems will be to the benefit of local producers,retailers and consumers. Local food needs to be made real through further development overa two year period of short-food supply chains initially focused on direct sales, i.e. farmersmarkets and or box schemes. These outlets should be viewed as business incubators whereproducers hone their products through direct contact with the consumer and their businessskills.As producers refine their product offering, it will be necessary to grow the scale of localmarkets through penetration of food supply systems at both retailer and institutional levels.Increasing the capacity of food enterprises can be achieved through either growth ofindividual enterprises or collaboration between groups of food producers. This can beachieved through partnership with local schools, health care facilities, businesses and otherprivate enterprises. The benefits of local procurement strategies, including, reduced costs and*Those who are interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market,are called "locavores."environmental impacts (particularly reduced carbon consumption), direct links between publicand private institutions and local communities, and seasonal, fresh produce, need to behighlighted. Key challenges to public procurement need to be tackled. These include ensuringany potential difficulties surrounding consistency of supply are overcome and, most 13
  • importantly, overcoming regulatory barriers. A review by Morgan and Morley highlights thechallenge and means of overcoming regulatory restrictions on public procurement15. One ofthe most significant barriers to public procurement (not private procurement) of locally-produced foods is EU regulations, particularly the principle of non-discrimination on thegrounds of nationality in the awarding of public contracts. Research by McLeod and Scottidentifies a number of examples of ways to promote local food without breaching EUregulations including use of sustainable procurement policies to increase the amount of localfood procured by public institutions without specifying “local”.16Morgan & Morley describe several of the methods used by other countries, including: – Organic procurement policies. By specifying organic in countries with a large number of organic producers, one can increase the amount of local food. This is particularly relevant to Ireland, given the emphasis on increasing organic food production. – Purchasing regional specific products, such as the European certified PDO or PGI. This is very challenging in the Irish context, as there are only four food products with these credentials. (EU quality schemes - guaranteeing quality: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) for agricultural farm products and foodstuffs). – Incorporating seasonality into public food demand. – Service specification, such as levels of freshness, quick delivery response times and minimal packaging may favour local businesses. – Operating below EU procurement thresholds. This is prohibited, but still practiced in some areas. – Allowing for the use of “lots” during tendering. This allows companies to bid for all or part of the contract, which is beneficial for smaller suppliers who may otherwise be excluded.15 Morgan, K. and Morley, A., Re-localising the Food Chain: The Role of Creative PublicProcurement, The Regeneration Institute, Cardiff University, 2002.16 McLeod, M. and J Scott, Local Food Procurement Policies: A Literature Review, Nova ScotiaDepartment of Energy, 2007. 14
  • – The use of variants, which is “a contractual method that prescribes two or more variations of the product(s) that can be supplied”. This method is commonly used by those wishing to purchase environmentally-friendly products, since in this situation, “green” suppliers can bid on “conventional” contracts and have their environmental qualities favourably considered. – Third party organizations manage meal provision, e.g. non-profit organizations or parent organizations in schools. – Occasional sourcing, e.g. a regular local, organic meal served every two weeks.OPPORTUNITIES FOR LOCAL FARM HOUSEHOLDSVarious studies by Teagasc show that approximately three out of four Irish farm enterprisesare unviable. This is partly reflected in the continual decline in farm numbers. There are anumber of options for enhancing the viability of a large proportion of existing farms. A centralchallenge is to add value to existing small and mid-sized farming operations.The LEADER Programme 2007-2013, with a total fund of €425, is a potential source offunding for farmers seeking to establish alternative rural enterprises. However, it has beennoted in the Irish case and elsewhere in the EU that farmers have been ‘slow’ to engage withthe programme.17 Work by Macken-Walsh has shown that bureaucratic challenges andregulative constraints are perceived by some farmers as barriers to farm diversification andthe establishment of new rural enterprises. Another barrier is that farmers strongly identifythemselves with farming as a way of life and are reluctant to get involved in the type ofactivities in line with the LEADER approach.‘MIDDLE AGRICULTURE’ MOVEMENTThe US Middle Agriculture model is one possible new solution which could be looked at herein Ireland to assist farmers in marketing food products directly to local customers or sellingthrough increasingly global marketing structures.18 A core feature of the Middle Agriculturemovement involves joining together in a federated co-operative structure the practices and17 Macken-Walsh, A. and L Dunne, Rural Development and Potential for an Irish ‘MiddleAgriculture’, Public Affairs Ireland Journal, PAI Publications Ltd., May 2010, Issue 69. 15
  • resources of small and mid-sized farms with the necessary professional industry skills tomarket, brand, package and distribute their products. The products are targeted at thegrowing niche in food markets that caters for a more socially, culturally and environmentally-conscious consumer19. Farm families’ application of such marketing and branding skills to theprimary commodity means moving them up the value-chain. The middle agriculturemovement in the US emphasises not only the need to move up the value chain but to takeownership of a greater proportion of the value-chain.The middle agriculture model highlights the need to develop and attach a ‘food story’ to theproduct, incorporating the social, cultural and ecological capitals that are identified as core tothe branding strategies of contemporary rural development products. Ireland holdsconsiderable potential for such products, both domestically and internationally. Highenvironmental quality and farm systems features such as grass-fed beef, puts Ireland in apotentially very strong position. The large proportion of farmers in Ireland who participated inthe Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) is also conducive to the production offood that has the branding stamp of ‘sustainability’. “The Middle Agriculture federatedcooperative is a potential model for achieving the ‘creative combining’ of family farm culture,knowledge and resources with industry strengths to improve the viability of many small andmid-sized Irish farms”20.BALLYHOURA’S BEST: MAKING THE LINKSThe local nature of food will be central to the Ballyhoura Area’s brand, which emphasiseslandscape, environment, culture and heritage. The contribution of food to both enterprisedevelopment and broader economic development, particularly of the tourist sector, will becomplemented by artisan food products. These products will draw from Ballyhoura’s uniquelandscape and food heritage to develop strong brands which will form key elements of their18 Macken-Walsh, A., Agriculture, Rural Development and Potential for a ‘Middle Agriculture inIreland’. Teagasc, RERC Working Paper Series, No 10, March 2010.19 Yee, Lawrence. 2004. Strategy for an Agriculture of the Middle. Paper presented to theRenewing Agriculture of the Middle Task Force, February. Racine, Wisconsin.20 Macken-Walsh, 2010, p.17. 16
  • unique selling points in regional, national and international markets. Eventually, the productsthemselves will form a key element of the marketing strategy for the Ballyhoura Area.Over the course of the past decade, Ballyhoura has developed a high profile amongstdomestic and international tourists through the organisation of events, including the Beast ofBallyhoura, a 36 hour adventure race that incorporates running, cycling, kayaking andshooting, and the International Walking Festival. Both of these draw on the area’s landscapeand heritage in combination with key infrastructure, i.e. Ballyhoura’s mountain biking trails.Other events include the Independence (music festival) which has grown to attract up to5,000 attendees each year.These events have proven to be very successful and raise the profile of the area. They alsoserve as a means of further developing the area’s food and rural economy. Chaining events,such as the adventure race, to a local food festival is increasingly seen as a means of buildingsynergies between disparate activities and developing ‘brand awareness’ amongst both thelocal and visitor community. Perhaps, a key challenge for the organising committee of theBeast of Ballyhoura is the incorporation of ‘The Beast’s Feast’ into next year’s event?These events also serve as a means of developing further tourist infrastructure. Internationalevidence suggests that people seek physical and mental challenges in landscapes that reflectkey cultural values, including respect for nature, the environment and heritage. Examplesinclude the Santiago de Compostela, aka the Camino (100,000 walkers arriving in Santiago in2006; 250,000 arriving in 2010) and the Grande Randonnee 20 (GR 20) in Corsica. From thewalker’s perspective, these occupy two ends of the hiking spectrum; the Camino is largelyflat, the GR20 is largely vertical. What unites them is the way in which these trails embedtourists into the local food economy. They are designed in such a way that people follow way-marked trails completing a ‘stage’ each day. Each stage starts and ends in a small town orvillage (in the case of the Camino) or, in the case of the GR20, mountain huts with associatedcamping facilities. It is estimated that in 2010, 20,000 people walked the GR20 and spent a 17
  • minimum of €500 each along the trail. This equates to €10 million. Of this, €6 million wasspent on food and drink. None of this is imported.The growth of this ‘activity, or experience’, market presents a number of opportunities forBallyhoura. These can be developed within the area and in conjunction with neighbouringareas. Fundamental to the development of this market is the provision of a variety ofappropriately graded and marked trails, the provision of a mix of accommodation options and(drying) facilities and locations where visitors can integrate with the local community throughthe mediums of food, drink, culture and heritage.The agri-food industry must seek new opportunities from the unfolding developments in EUand world trade policy, from major changes in food markets driven by lifestyle andtechnological factors and new benchmarks of performance in Irelands transformed economyand society. These trends continue to transform the retail sector and will continue to do so forthe coming decade. This involves not just changing consumer demand for food products butthe rapid evolution of channels of food distribution and sale.TEAGASC SUPPORTTeagasc is committed to supporting all sectors of the food processing industry and we havetailored programmes to suit the particular needs of a very diverse food sector. We are workingclosely with Enterprise Ireland as the national industry development agency in building thecompetitiveness and export capability of the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Weprovide technical advice and supports for all artisan food businesses and we have dedicatedfood technologists working specifically with the meat and dairy artisan sector. This is aspecific initiative for food artisans supported by the Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries andFood and Community, Gaeltacht & Rural Affairs. We use a combination of supports to providethese businesses with the knowledge, skills and technologies to produce safe quality food.These supports include providing technical information, marketing advice, in conjunction withBord Bia, technical training courses and also advice for individual businesses on their specificneeds. We also provide businesses with access to modern food production units and a 18
  • product testing service for product development purposes from our well resourced foodresearch centres at Ashtown, Dublin and Moorepark, Cork.CONCLUSIONSThere is a growing recognition of the role the agri-food sector and broader rural economy canplay in bringing about sustainable growth in the Irish economy and, in particular, itsimportance in contributing to balanced regional development.This is welcome development following years during which we have witnessed report afterreport either ignore the sector or relegate it to an after-thought. For a long period, Irelandpinned its aspirations for development to the mast of ‘high-tech’ industry and downplayed therole of agriculture. However, I now detect a growing questioning of the role of economic policyand a growing realisation that we have successful international agri-food companies; we havewell-educated and trained people coming into food and agriculture; we have an excellent andunique model of innovation in Teagasc and strong links with the third level sector.Getting out of our current difficulties will require growth that is balanced across our areas ofstrength and that is also regionally balanced. Agri-food is an area of strength. Rural Irelandcannot rely on the construction industry as it did during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era. Growth andemployment in rural Ireland must be built on the more sustainable foundation of its bio-basedresources. We can build a consumer-focused and sustainable agri-food sector built oninnovation and expanding out to embrace a broader integrated biology-based economy, is amodel for future economic growth. The position is clear. Food will become increasinglyscarce, while demand for more and better food produced in a sustainable manner will grow.There is a growing link between food and health, and these industries are becomingincreasingly integrated. We have major research and commercial strengths in both. We cantake advantage of this growing market, both through the medium of our large food companiesand small, locally-based producers. Ballyhoura is well-served by food enterprises at bothends of the scale. Together, they can help establish the Ballyhoura Food industry as a modelfor what Ireland as a whole can aspire to over the next few decades.Acknowledgement: 19
  • I wish to acknowledge the contribution made by the following Teagasc staff members in thepreparation and writing of this paper: Mr David Meredith, Rural Economy Research Centre; DrLance O’Brien, Head Office; Mr Pat Daly, Ashtown Food Research Centre; and Dr GerardBarry, Ashtown Food Research Centre. 20