Food Vision 2030: Is Ireland about to export its leadership?

Ireland has a new food strategy, and it is hoping it will change not only the Irish food and beverage system, but act as a guide for other nations to follow.

To describe the Republic of Ireland, a nation rich in history and culture, as “finding its voice” seems somewhat laughable. But the small island nation is – in the words used multiple times at this week’s EFFoST 2022 Conference in Dublin – “punching above its weight” when it comes to food and beverage production and leadership.

Food has always played a massive role in the nation’s history – sometimes more so the lack of it, yet even today the food and beverage sector is a key part of how Ireland presents itself to the world. Indeed, it is the country’s largest indigenous industry, turning over some €27.5 billion and exporting a further €13 billion.

While Irish beef and Guinness might be brands well-known and loved around the world, the country is developing another food and beverage-based export too: it’s leadership.

Food Vision 2030

With a population of just over five million and a GDP of nearly $500 billion (ranked 25th in the world), it is fair to say the Republic of Ireland is not one of the biggest players around the international diplomatic table.

Yet the country’s food and beverage experts, backed by the Irish Government, have identified an area which Ireland can lead on. Food Vision 2030 sets out Ireland’s plan to become a world leader in sustainable food systems before the decade is out.

The ambitious plan is a far cry from then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s statement to the European Parliament in 2018, when he said he was “not proud of Ireland’s performance on climate change” and called his country a “laggard”.

Speaking at EFFoST 2022, Tom Arnold, Chair of the 2030 Agri-Food Strategy Stakeholder Committee, said Varadkar was “only telling the truth”.

So how is Ireland going to go from laggard to leader in what will be, 12 short years on from the then Taoiseach’s disparagingly frank remarks? Well, according to Arnold, through a “food systems” approach.

What is a food systems approach?