Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Future for Irish Farming

Governments in the west spend over $300 billion a year on farm subsidies. Think about that figure. Imagine what could be done if that figure was invested in health care in the third world? But not also is it diverting finds that could be used for better means it also hurts people in poorer countries. These people can produce food cheaper then we can but because governments can subsidies their producers who subsequently dump their product on the global market lowering prices and dening these countries a way to trade their way out of poverty. We all know the argument and their is a large movement to reduce these and despite Ireland’s and France’s wishes eventually the EU will decided to reduce CAP and import subsidies. EU commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel recently said

“the only one direction in which import tariffs will move in future – sooner or later – and that is downwards”

So what do we do to prepare.

The first thing we do is ban GM crops. Yes I know it is a radical thing to say and yes I agree totally that it is perfectly safe and good. Some times resident here James McInerney and senior lecturer in Bioinformatics in NUI Maynooth has one or two good posts about the issue on his blog. So why then if I believe that it is good that I believe it should be banned. Basically for the same reason that mobile phone protests happen.

Mobile phone masts are safe. I have posted the reason here before it is basic physics. However hear the word radiation and people think Chernobyl and think of radiation burns they have seen in movies and TV, they see mutant turtles . There has been research done on this.

People care more and more about what they eat and choose organic food because it is healthier. Thing is there is little actual scientific evidence to prove that it is healtier. Indeed on whether the extra cost is merit for health reasons this paper from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture said

This paper examines whether the dollar value of health benefits that consumers derive from organic food could account for the price premiums they pay. Price and sales data from realized transactions are inadequate to reveal consumer preferences for health benefits. Our exploratory alternative method estimates the value of health benefits to a hypothetical consumer who assesses risks as risk assessors do and values a unit reduction in all fatal risks equally, regardless of the source of any risk. Under these assumptions, our estimates of the value of health benefits derived from substituting an organic diet for a conventionally produced diet approach zero.

Yet another report said that people are willing to pay up to 50% more for organic food. The majority of people do in fact believe it is better for them. The myth exists, is believed and has created a booming market. Reason is people read it in newspapers, see celebs talking about it and more importantly don’t really browse a scientific journal of an evening. So this gives us an opportunity for a wee bit of exploitation.

The various groups that go on about Frankenstein food can do Irish farmers a favour. In this weeks economist there is an article about Swiss Cheese. Basically their cheese was highly subsidies and protected and they have decided to stop all that and open it to the market. Why because they see it as beneficial. They are looking at the growing middle classes in India and China and see that there is a market for high class stuff. Instead of trying to sell Swiss people expense imitations of French cheese they would sell the Chinese up-market versions of there own cheese. People like the authentic, unusual and as I think Sarah Carey said there is status in expensive food. So these people are realising that the closed market in food cannot continue that the free market is coming and the only we to survive with our higher living standards is to have better more expensive products. And by better I mean what is thought to be better.

If we can market Ireland as the GM-Free organic isle then suddenly we can up the price of our produce. We will have well-off dinner parties in China and New York going (imagine posh accents) well I only ever use Irish food is just so much more natural loike (yes D4 is everywhere) . We can’t compete with the poorer nations indeed we probably should not. But there is no reason we can’t aim for the top.

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