The President of ICMSA, Pat McCormack, has given a guarded welcome to the launch of ‘Food Vision 2030 – A World Leader in Sustainable Food Systems’, the agri-food sector’s roadmap for the decade.
Mr. McCormack has said there needs to early delivery on the economic sustainability of food production.
“The ambitions contained in the document are both notable and achievable and there is no doubt that export values could be grown to the ambitious levels set out in the plan. But the strategy is crippled by our official inability or unwillingness to state categorically to the public that food prices must and will increase as part of that drive to become more sustainable,” he said.
Mr. McCormack said that the silence on this “completely self-evident aspect of sustainability had now become deafening”.
“Increasingly, farmers are asking why senior Ministers and spokespersons seemed incapable of spelling out this part of the sustainability sequence.
“We heard it yet again this morning on RTE’s Morning Ireland interview with Minister (for Agriculture) Charlie McConalogue when the question of costs was raised. Instead of just answering that the costs of the transition to greater sustainability will have to be borne by all the links in the food-supply chain including the consumer, we got another dissembling reply that reinforces the myth out there that, somehow, all the costs associated with this historic shift are going to be magically absorbed by the farmer and producers,” said Mr. McCormack.
Describing the unwillingness to address this absolutely fundamental aspect of the issue as “both worrying and mystifying”, Mr. McCormack said farmers were entitled to conclude that the Government seemed nervous and afraid to tell consumers that the transition will involve a considerable degree of food price inflation.
“The journey we are already on towards a more sustainable model of farming and food production has dominated the debate to the exclusion of practically everything else for the last five years,” he added.
“In that whole period, we have still yet to hear a senior Irish Government figure actually tell the Irish public that the first step towards integrating ‘Sustainable Food Systems’ with the new climate realities is going to be ensuring that people pay the real price of the food they consume – both economic and environmental.
“We still seem trapped in the absolutely broken model that allows retail corporations to sell food at prices that are actually below the costs of production; witness the advice given to the Government just days ago by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission not to introduce a ban on below-cost selling,” the ICMSA President said.
“There is a fundamental and disqualifying incoherence at the heart of Ireland’s drive to greater food and climate sustainability.
“We want to get there but our Government seems afraid to break the news that we are all – including the consumer – going to have to pay the real costs involved.
“This lack of clarity is going to undermine that intent and ambition of strategies like ‘Food Vision 2030’ and it’s actually just delaying a very necessary conversation we as a society need to have about what we all need to do going forward,” he concluded.