UK - The global agriculture sector needs a science based approach to intensification of food production, writes Chris Harris.
This was one of the key messages from the Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to the Oxford Farming Conference.
He said that the market place for agricultural products was one of great change at the present but it was also one that offered great opportunity.
He said that the Irish agricultural sector has to be governed by both international and in particular UK trends because it has to find a buyer for its agricultural products.
Because of this both the UK and Ireland must view agriculture in a global context.
Mr Coveney said that because of a growing global population and growing urbanisation of that population that will require increased protein for consumption, the world is going to have to find new ways to meet growing demand.
By 2030 there will be a 50 per cent increase in food demand in volume terms and by 2050 the demand will have increased by 70 per cent.
To meet this growing demand the world will need to produce an additional 1 billion tonnes of extra cereals from struggling resources and200 million tonnes more meat between now and 2050.
Most of this increase will have to be met over the next two decades.
Mr Coveney added that not only will the world need to find more food from diminishing resources, it will also have to meet the demands of changing climate change targets and less agricultural land.
“We will have to find 50 per cent more water to produce the extra food,” he said.
He said the consequences of doing nothing would be conflict and competition on an international scale.
He said the farming sector has to embrace new ways which involve new science and new technology.
“And this part of the world has to give the leadership,” Mr Coveney said.
“It is about a global challenge and an extraordinary global opportunity.”
In this context, he said that politics and the political leaders have been important to the farming community and for the EU the new reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy will play an important part in shaping the future or farming in Europe.
He said there are five key policy areas that have changed:
- Greening of the CAP
- Generational Change
- Moving away from Protectionism
He said the greening aspects of the CAP are aimed at protecting resources and the generational changes are intended to help younger people enter an aging farming community.
In the past the CAP had protected markets but it was now freeing up the market by measures such as the abolition of milk and sugar quotas.
He added that flexibility had been built into the system to allow different farming atitudes and national aspects to be included so that differences between farming methods in the north and south of Europe could all be taken into consideration.
The system also simplified measures reducing bureaucracy and form filling.