Fine Gael Senator Michelle Mulherin has slammed comments by Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan regarding Ireland’s agri-food sector.
Senator Mulherin said Sinn Féin is not a voice for Irish farmers in Europe with the party’s ill-informed opinions on exports and emissions.
Senator Mulherin said: “Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan made a number of incorrect assertions on the most recent edition of the European Parliament Report.
“She criticised our targets for exporting more dairy into Asia, saying we should be concentrating our efforts on ‘small agriculture’.
“I was deeply shocked by these comments, which show absolutely no understanding of how vital the agri-food sector is for our economy and no understanding of the implications of Brexit.
“It’s crucial to diversify into new markets in dairy given that over €1 billion worth of exports go to the UK annually.
“If we don’t pursue new markets for dairy and beef it will have huge adverse consequences for the likes of Aurivo and other co-ops, and the farmers who rely on them.
“In the context of Brexit it is more important than ever to be ambitious about our export targets and identify new trading partners.
“The Minister continues to lead efforts to diversify markets, including through leading Trade Missions and in expanding his Department’s capacity in relation to market access work.
“Trade Missions to the US and Mexico, Japan and Korea, and the Gulf region in 2017 will be followed shortly with a further Mission to the US and Canada in February and other destinations later in 2018.”
Senator Mulherin continued: “Lynn Boylan openly criticised our agricultural model for not being ‘clean and green’, claiming it was unsustainable.
“In terms of the carbon footprint per kilo of output our dairy industry is the most efficient in the world and our beef is the fifth most efficient in the EU.
“Every litre of milk produced in Ireland is the most carbon efficient in Europe.
“We will continue to seek to make improvements in carbon efficiency across the food supply chain.
“For example, to-date over 137,000 carbon audits have been completed by Bord Bia as part of their Origin Green programme, 90% of beef exports are now in an audit and carbon foot printing programme and 100% of milk production is entering into a carbon auditing cycle.
“Agriculture already has significant initiatives in place and agricultural emissions have fallen by 6% since 1990 while our output has increased by over 40%.
“Farming is our biggest industry in the country. Does Sinn Féin want to shut it down and sound the death knell for farm families around Ireland?”