Only 10,000 full-time Irish farmers
will be left by 2025 compared to just over 40,000 now if current trends
continue, according to a State-funded report launched today by Minister for
Agriculture Mary Coughlan
The Rural Development 2025 report
was produced by an Inter-Institutional Working Group drawn
from the universities NUI Maynooth and UCD and the State agricultural
agency Teagasc. It is an assessment of the prospects
for rural Ireland to 2025.
The Intel Ireland campus, at
Collinstown Industrial Park, Leixlip, County Kildare is Intel's fourth largest
manufacturing site overall, and the largest outside the United
Intel, Dell, Pfizer and HP are
foreign-owned manufacturing firms in Ireland responsible for 90% of Irish
exports. The report predicts that most of these enterprises will have moved to
low-cost economies by 2025. Growth in exports from the
dominant indigenous enterprises will remain relatively
The Report says: "It is unlikely
that by 2025 Ireland will have appreciably more than 10,000 full-time commercial
farmers, comprising predominantly dairy farmers, 1,000 or so commercial dry
stock farmers, with roughly a similar number of sheep producers and a few
hundred pig enterprises," it says.
In its Executive Summary, the Group says that Government policy
for rural areas aims to build a rural economy where enterprises will be
commercially competitive without damaging the environment. It seeks to have
vibrant sustainable communities, with a quality of life that will make them
attractive places in which to work and live. It aspires for equity of
opportunity between rural and urban areas, and for balanced development between
the regions. These initiatives are underpinned by EU policy for rural areas,
which subscribes to the attainment of ‘living countrysides’ within the context
of balanced regional development across the Union.
raises two questions:
goals being achieved?
It says that if a
scenario assuming no major changes in current trends, other than those already
signalled, will result in serious failures to achieve the declared policy goals
for rural Ireland. Although the aggregate headline indicators in the national
economy are positive, they mask some underlying weaknesses that adversely affect
prospects for the rural economy. On current trends the following outcomes are
likely by 2025.
What Future Could Be Achieved the Group asks?
There will not be an
acceptable regional balance in Ireland’s economy; population, commercial
agriculture and modern enterprises will be even more concentrated in the east
and south than at present.
especially in the northwest and north midlands, will lag behind in respect of
communications and other infrastructure, particularly as EU funds will not be
available for their further development.
There will be dramatic
reductions in farmer numbers, lower agricultural prices, and widespread decline
in commercial farming.
Lower volumes of farm
output will threaten the viability of agri-food processing
Forested land area
will almost double; however, the value of forestry and wood product output will
not increase to the same extent.
The marine sector will
not have reached its inherent potential, especially in terms of valueadded in
the seafood and renewable energy sectors.
Provision of public
goods from natural resources, including carbon sequestration by forests, will
not be achieved in the absence of adequate attention to the valuation of these
public goods and arrangements to pay their potential suppliers.
The rural landscape
with Ireland’s rich natural and cultural environment will be under continued
Developments in the
broader rural economy will not offset losses and other weaknesses in the natural
resource sectors. Growth in exports from the dominant indigenous enterprises
will remain relatively low. Moreover, it is likely that a large part of
manufacturing output from foreign owned enterprises will move to lower cost
economies. In these circumstances, employment in building and construction will
not continue at current high levels.
New types of
employment will not benefit the many rural communities outside of commuting
Rural Ireland in 2025
could be closer to the situation envisaged in the goals for national policies.
However, this requires taking action now on the following:
The National Spatial
Strategy, implemented in conjunction with successive regionally focused national
plans, would result in a more balanced distribution of population and economic
activity throughout the country.
and supporting infrastructure would provide greater accessibility throughout all
parts of the country.
The rural economy
could sustain more competitive enterprises through the development of additional
entrepreneurial and management skills, as well as further innovation in
products, business organisation and marketing.
The agri-food industry
could have more developed business, technological and innovative
capacities, with a widely differentiated
product portfolio selling in international markets.
Forestry and the ocean
economy could be sizeable suppliers to the energy sector and provide valued
Maintenance of an
attractive rural environment could be secured by compliance with EU
Directives and payment
for public goods, as well as better management systems nationally.
bio-economy could emerge built on the comparative advantage of Ireland’s natural
enterprises could be upgraded, and manufacturing small and medium sized
enterprises (SMEs) could increase their contribution to the rural
Tourism could be a
vibrant sector of the rural economy, providing knowledge-based environmental
goods and services, focused on Ireland’s unique landscapes and
internationally oriented companies could exploit the full potential of natural
resources in food, the marine, forestry and
Realising Attainable National Policy Goals
required to achieve the above perspective and the ultimate goals of rural
policies are summarised below.
Greater commitment to
rural and regional development throughout government.
Construct an effective
institutional framework to ensure that policies respond to the defined needs of
the rural economy and rural communities.
Change in the prevailing mode of policy-making, public
administration and policy delivery such as that
(i) the rhetoric of
stated policy is followed through with clear operational programmes, especially
in relation to the White Paper on Rural Development and the National Spatial
(ii) public programmes
are initiated proactively and are not dependent on Directives from
(iii) consultation with
stakeholders and the completion of value for money audits prior to commitment of
IFA President John Dillon said
today: "the Rural Ireland 2025 Report is a timely response
to the problem of regional imbalance within Ireland, with many rural areas and
the BMW region overall falling behind in economic development. However, the
baseline projections for full-time, commercial farmers is based on a "business
as usual" or "do nothing" approach, which of course I do not accept."
Dillon said "there is very little
evidence to-date that the Government's National Spatial Strategy is making any
difference to rural Ireland. Furthermore, the threat to manufacturing jobs from
low-cost countries and the threat to agriculture from the current WTO
negotiations have severe implications for rural areas."
The IFA President said "as regards
future employment in farming, the food industry and agri-services, the baseline
projection in the report is for 70,000 - 100,000 full-time equivalent jobs by
The actual outturn will depend
mainly on whether or not commercial farming is profitable, and that is why the
outcome of the WTO negotiations on agriculture is of vital importance to
Ireland. If market prices for farm products fall below the cost of production,
the level of national agricultural output will not be sustained.
"A number of the recommendations in
relation to agriculture are in line with IFA policy, such as the need for
increased scale and competitiveness, and better access to land through leasing
and partnerships. It also identifies agriculture's future role in the provision
of specialist food, the provision of renewable energy, and recognises the role
of farmers in the provision of public goods such as the environment.
Dillon said "in addition to the
role of the Irish Government in making the best defence of Irish agriculture in
the WTO negotiations and the EU budget negotiations, which of course is vital, I
am challenging Teagasc as the national Development Agency for Agriculture, to
take on board the competitive future facing farmers and to respond with
solutions which will cut costs and increase productivity in agriculture." "As
regards the wider rural economy, the key ingredients for development are
knowledge, infrastructure, and economic planning resulting in clusters of
competitive enterprises. IFA will be studying the report in detail in the near
Download the report (in pdf format)
RELATED: Comprehensive coverage on the
trade round issues
Trade Round: Bono, Geldof and business lobby group IBEC go AWOL as Irish
Government hides in France's shadow