I would like to congratulate Eddie Downey on his election as the new President of the IFA. This was a keenly fought contest between both candidates right down to the wire and just shows the high esteem this position is held in.
The IFA is an organisation with 88,000 members which provides strong representation for farmers across a range of services which is extremely important for farmers right across the country. The IFA are a very effective and professional organisation and I have had a very good working relationship with them since taking office two and a half years ago.
I would like to complement John Byran for the leadership he has given the organisation as President during a crucial time for agriculture particularly in 2013 which has been a historical year for the industry. The Irish presidency concluding the CAP has been a major milestone for our industry which has not been without its challenges this year including the horsemeat issue, the extreme weather and following fodder shortages throughout which the IFA and John Bryan have showed great leadership for farmers and those in rural Ireland.
The agriculture industry is a key economic driver for Ireland and this Government recognises its essential role in Ireland’s economy. Irish Food and Drinks exports have surpassed €9bn in 2012 and exports in 2013 have showed continued strong growth to date.
I would like to wish Eddie and the new Deputy President Tim O’Leary the very best as they take office at a crucial time for our industry and look forward to working with them as we continue to ensure that our industry is a world class food producer and exporter.