AS EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos’ visit to Ireland this week sparks debate about the impact of the imminent removal of milk quota, Deputy Tom Barry has called for a targeted educational policy to find and encourage potential food science innovators from Junior Certificate onwards.
“One of the key questions that needs to be asked this week is how the removal of milk quotas in 2015 will be managed. Is it going to be a free for all or a controlled increase in production? If it is to be a total abolition, allowing the markets to go where they will, it’s very important for Ireland to embrace this increased production by planning a diverse portfolio of products to sell. We should use the next 10 to 15 years as an opportunity to get branded products on the shelves for European consumers.
“Because, while we are encouraged and somewhat transfixed by the huge demand for our products in China, history tells us that, in the long-term, China will want to become as self-sufficient as possible. We should use this opportunity to create more high quality branded products that compete on the European marketplace, in the wealthiest marketplaces of the world.
“To achieve this, it is critical that we start gearing our education system, from Junior Certificate onwards, towards science based subjects which will allow us to value add our products and carry out the necessary research and development to become sustainable world leaders in innovation in the food sector. As a science graduate myself, I understand the opportunities in this area. However, it is important that we find and encourage, at an early age, the young people with the aptitude and the skills to drive this sector.”