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Gulf Business - - CONTENTS - By Neil King

Key sto­ries from across the re­gion

Ire­land and the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil coun­tries could find mu­tual ben­e­fit in closer ties over food and agriculture, ac­cord­ing to the Ir­ish gov­ern­ment’s min­is­ter of agriculture, food and the ma­rine.

Min­is­ter Michael Creed was in the re­gion in March lead­ing a trade mis­sion to the Gulf states in a bid to en­hance ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ships and pro­mote the Ir­ish agri­food sec­tor.

Speak­ing to Gulf Busi­ness on the side­lines of an event to pro­mote sus­tain­able Ir­ish beef, he said that op­por­tu­ni­ties abound given the food needs of the GCC.

“Our re­la­tion­ship is ex­cel­lent – we’ve had some very pro­duc­tive meet­ings here with UAE au­thor­i­ties and with Saudi au­thor­i­ties,” he said.

“We think we’re a very good fit here be­cause we ex­port 90 per cent of what we pro­duce, and this re­gion im­ports prob­a­bly 90 per cent of the food it re­quires. So we see op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“Our present foothold is about EUR250m ($269.5m) in terms of ex­ports to the re­gion and we see – in terms of our am­bi­tion to grow – this area as of­fer­ing sig­nif­i­cant footage.”

Glob­ally, Ire­land is seek­ing to grow its ex­ports from EUR11bn ($11.86bn) in 2015 to EUR19bn ($20.4bn) in 2025 – a near dou­bling in value.

And the min­is­ter iden­ti­fied Dubai in par­tic­u­lar as be­ing of in­ter­est.

He said: “Dubai in many re­spects is the tar­get mar­ket – so­phis­ti­cated, in­creas­ingly Western­ised in di­etary habit, more spend­ing power, but also in­ter­ested in the Ori­gin Green sus­tain­abil­ity badge that’s very im­por­tant to our of­fer­ing now. So we see this area as an ideal fit.”

Ori­gin Green is a sus­tain­abil­ity pro­gramme launched and led by Bord Bia – the Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment Food Board – that en­ables Ire­land’s farm­ers and pro­duc­ers to set and achieve mea­sur­able sus­tain­abil­ity tar­gets. The ini­tia­tive aims to re­duce en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, serve lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties more ef­fec­tively, and pro­tect the coun­try’s re­sources.

Creed be­lieves the GCC coun­tries can look to Ori­gin Green for in­spi­ra­tion and guid­ance when for­mu­lat­ing their own sus­tain­abil­ity plans.

“We’ve found across the re­gion here that cli­mate change and re­source man­age­ment is a re­ally big is­sue,” he said.

“We all have an obli­ga­tion now un­der the Paris Accord to man­age our re­sources, our wa­ter waste, re­duce our car­bon foot­print, and so on. Long be­fore now – back in 2010-2011 – our farm­ers were be­gin­ning to look at is­sues around their sus­tain­abil­ity prac­tices, re­duc­ing their car­bon foot­print. So we’re a bit ahead of the curve.

“We have es­tab­lished within the re­mit of my depart­ment an agency, which is called Sus­tain­able Food Sys­tems Ire­land. The CEO is on our del­e­ga­tion with us and has en­gaged with both Saudi and UAE au­thor­i­ties on that knowl­edge that we have ac­cu­mu­lated on this jour­ney we’ve been on in terms of our sus­tain­abil­ity – our sus­tain­abil­ity mod­els, our live­stock man­age­ment, our food sys­tems.

“We are look­ing to part­ner with coun­tries and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties here in the GCC area to en­able those tech­nolo­gies that we have de­vel­oped to be ex­ploited with other coun­tries, and I think that’s a very sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment.”

The Ir­ish trade mis­sion to the GCC comes at a time of un­cer­tainty for the Euro­pean coun­try’s fu­ture dealings with its big­gest trade part­ner, the United King­dom.

In light of the Brexit vote, which is likely to mean that the UK will break away from the Euro­pean Union by the sum­mer of 2019, Creed ad­mits there is a need to build on ex­ist­ing part­ner­ships and re­la­tion­ships.

“Ob­vi­ously the UK is out of favour with the Euro­pean Union, and it has sig­nalled its in­tent to leave. And that’s a very sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge to us,” he said.

“We have ap­prox­i­mately 40 per cent of our ex­ports in the agri-food side go to the UK. So whereas trade mis­sions were al­ways an im­por­tant thing for our in­dus­try and what we do, they’ve taken on an added ur­gency now in the con­text of Brexit.

“We’re not walking away from the UK mar­ket, but we also think it’s pru­dent to seek to min­imise our ex­po­sure there and seek new mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“Open­ing mar­kets is a crit­i­cal part of the Brexit strat­egy.”

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