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Ireland can become a world leader in adopting sustainable practices in the food supply chain – but must act now

17th January 2023 - Fine Gael Press Office

Ireland has an opportunity to cement a unique competitive edge in the food sector, if moves are made quickly to protect our environment by developing and adopting sustainable changes in the food production supply chain, according to the Fine Gael Policy Lab.

The agri-food sector can play a unique role in delivering environment improvements and achieving decarbonisation by reducing atmospheric warming. There is also a considerable opportunity to reduce adverse environmental impact at every point along the food supply chain, from production, processing, packaging, and presentation, while offering consumers more choice.

The Fine Gael Policy Lab has published recommendations from several kitchens held with stakeholders and other interested parties on Food, Consumer Durables and Fast Fashion, and Construction.

Key recommendations for the Food and Agriculture Sector include:

  • To develop community projects to demonstrate best practice (Zero Packaging areas in supermarkets; Food Cloud; Stop Food Waste challenge; C’est qui le patron?)
  • To integrate the many government commitments into an integrated Land Use Strategy,and develop better market pathways and reward structures so that farmers can see a prosperous income stream from the new activities which government commitments seek— in carbon farming, in renewable production and in environmental services— backed by accurate data.
  • To evolve more effective Producer Responsibility Schemes to target food waste along the supply chain, underlining food use planning, effective separation and allocation of recovered food to the highest value use in the hierarchy.
  • To establish Sectoral Compact across the Food sector, so that the efforts of primary producers, processors, retailers, and consumers are more integrated, particularly around traceability, packaging improvements and standards.

Deputy Richard Bruton, Chairman of Fine Gael’s Parliamentary Party, said: “Ireland is rightly proud of the quality of our food produce and its robust tracing under Origin Green. However, we cannot ignore features of the sector that are not sustainable; high levels of food waste, high levels of single use items and non-recyclable plastics, poor emission balances from our land use patterns, a loss of biodiversity and a lack of focus on local and in season produce in our consumer choices. There is much that can be done to address these issues.

“While it is a sector of which we are highly proud and our high-quality food production has earned international recognition – the sector as a whole accounts for two thirds of all consumer plastic. Over one million tonnes of food is wasted beyond the farm gate, with an estimated 25% wasted inside the farm gate. In addition to this, half of compostable material does not end up being composed.

“A circular approach is ideally suited to get all of us; producers, processors, retailers, consumers, hotels and restaurants alike, to look at how each link in the supply chain operates to see how we can deliver outstanding nutrition without the environmental damage which now occurs.”

MEP for the Midlands-North West Colm Markey, who has a background in agriculture and business development said: “Farmers want to play an active and meaningful part in adopting better practices in all aspects of agriculture and food production in line with a circular approach.

“The agri-food sector has an important role to play and the benefits can result in better farm incomes, new economic opportunities though carbon farming, renewables and the bioeconomy, better quality food, and greater resilience of our enterprises into the future. It can attract more consumers to quality local produce and save them money from better use of materials.

“There are some fantastic examples of good practice at home and abroad which we can build upon. It is equally important that across the sector must be assisted to work together on shared goals and be properly rewarded for results.”

Iseult Ward, Co-Founder of Food Cloud, a social enterprise that partners with producers and retailers to donate and redistribute surplus food, said: “Up to 40% of food is wasted globally, causing 8-10% global greenhouse gas emissions.  Wasting food is a moral failure, driving an environmental crisis and humanitarian concerns.

“Government action and investment in circular initiatives is imperative if we are to reach Ireland’s climate goals by 2030. With focused ambition, Ireland could become a global leader in food waste reduction.”

See full recommendations here:

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