As Ukraine suffers the ravages of war, it is worth remembering that Irish agribusiness has a special obligation to the countries of Eastern Europe.
When the Celtic Tiger got going around the turn of the century, agriculture here faced an existential crisis due to acute labor shortages, especially in the dairy, meat processing and vegetable sectors.
Job opportunities in construction, technology, and pharmacy offered far better salaries and working conditions than cutting cabbage on a wet November morning.
Just as the situation turned critical, a wave of workers arrived from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine with a strong mix of positive personalities, good education, strong work ethic and stone-washed jeans.
It is no exaggeration that this influx has saved some agricultural sectors that were really struggling.
Over time, some of these workers returned home. But more have settled and taken root in Ireland; They may have moved up the ranks or changed sectors, but they continue to bring their talents to this country.
your contribution has yet to be fully recognized.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine already revealed the fragility of the EU’s energy and food policy.
The EU — in particular the interpretation of the rules by Irish politics — believes that the best way to achieve targets on climate change, biodiversity, water quality, etc. is to simply outsource the unpleasant stuff to other countries and, in our own minds, ‘best in class’ for the small amount of production that takes place there “ to become the block.
For example, CAP policy is to convert farming within the bloc to organic production on the (much erroneous) assumption that this is greener, while buying the difference in food production anywhere in the world where it is cheapest .
This policy has two fatal flaws. The first is now being so visibly exposed that the bloc’s energy and food security have been so undermined in such a short period of time.
Second, outsourcing food and energy production is clearly not the way to reduce the environmental impact of that food or energy. It just moves it from one state to another – and unfortunately the environment doesn’t recognize states.
The safest and most sustainable way to produce food and energy is to do it yourself, while respecting the required environmental and social standards.
This will not be easy; it requires increasing the production of a wide range of food crops using available technologies and developing new technologies.
There is a need to clarify who is best placed to produce the wide array of food needed for a modern population.
It also requires a robust system of protection around these producers, lest they be undermined by the ways of a market that treats producers as pawns in a power struggle for market share.
If we’re to learn anything from our neighbors’ invasion, it’s that when it’s our turn to be blackmailed by a little man with a big red button, at least we’ll be able to feed and heat ourselves while we await our fate.
Richard Hackett is an agronomist from North County Dublin and a member of the ACA and ITCA
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/tillage/richard-hackett-ukraine-situation-underlines-importance-of-food-self-sufficiency-in-eu-41406022.html Richard Hackett: The situation in Ukraine underlines the importance of food self-sufficiency in the EU