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The recently convened 2025 Agri-Food Strategy provides a valuable opportunity to check on the progress of the 2020 Food Harvest plans, to revisit priorities, and to make adjustments to the process.

While the 2020 document provided a very valuable set of targets to aspire to, and a roadmap as to how the targets could be hit; the lessons learned over the past 5 years ought to be analysed and integrated into a revised document.

We are now 5 years down the road towards our 2020 targets, and we have, as predicted grown milk supply strongly; to the extent that we will be facing a super levy that could approach €100 million. Farmers have invested in their herds and facilities and have used the last 5 years well in terms of developing their skills in grassland management and herd management. There still remains a lot of work to be done in terms of financial and business management at farm level, however.

At processor level, several hundred million has been spent in processing facilities and quality systems to ensure that all the extra milk can be processed, and done so efficiently. The huge developments in routes to market, facilitated by investments by the IDB and others, will pay dividends in terms of access to premium developing markets. We still haven’t managed to combat volatility, however, and the coming season may demonstrate how damaging the income roller-coaster may be, to farmers and their co-ops.

Perhaps we were a little too positive in our post Food Harvest 2020 conversations. Dairy farming was portrayed as the promised land. Perhaps now, with the benefit of 5 years more learning, we should temper the rhetoric, and look more clearly at the necessary steps to develop a profitable industry while realising the potential of the nation’s dairy farms.