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HE Simon Coveney TD

UAE, ABU DHABI - Agriculture

Something in the Soil

Minister for Agriculture, Food, & the Marine, Ireland

Bio

Simon Coveney TD is the Minister for Agriculture, Food, & the Marine of Ireland, a position he has held since 2011. He was born in 1972 and holds a degree in Agriculture and Land Management from the Royal Agriculture College, Gloucestershire. He was first elected to the Dáil (Irish Parliament) in 1998 as one of Fine Gael’s youngest TDs, and held shadow ministries in various areas. He also chaired the Fine Gael Policy Development Committee prior to the general election in 2011.

"There are already strong links between the Gulf region and Ireland when it comes to the provision of technology."

What are the main goals of your visit to the UAE?

This visit is about further developing an already strong and mutually beneficial relationship between Ireland and the UAE. In particular, I want to raise the profile of Ireland not only as a provider of the highest quality food and ingredients in the world, but also as a source of technical expertise in the agribusiness sector that can help partner countries build their own food production capacity. In this regard I believe that there is significant scope for mutually beneficial commercial opportunities in the provision of agro-services in areas such as food safety and quality, innovation, and product development that can lead to successful co-operation and collaboration between Irish and Emirati partners. The reputation of Ireland as a good place to do business, and of Irish companies as honorable, effective, and reliable business partners, is critically important. These are values we share with the peoples of the UAE, and the personal, face-to-face engagement that a visit of this nature facilitates helps to build the kind of confidence that can develop and sustain lasting business relationships. And, of course, we also share a love of all things equine. In Ireland, we breed the finest horses in the world, and have built an excellent and very close relationship with this part of the world, which we hope to further develop and nurture. I hope that the work we do this week to further develop the already strong relationships at the political and commercial levels can be a building block for an even more exciting and mutually beneficial relationship into the future.

Where do you see the big opportunities for partnership between the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Ireland in the agriculture sector?

There are strong and obvious synergies between Abu Dhabi’s food security policy objectives and Ireland’s strategic plan for the expansion and development of its agribusiness sector. Ireland is a small country of just over 4 million people, but already produces enough food to feed 36 million people. Under its Food Harvest 2020 program, we plan to increase the value-added in these sectors by 40% and the value of exports by 42% in the period to 2020. In addition, our long tradition of food production has allowed us to develop expertise in the areas of food research, product development, and production engineering, and I believe that there are commercial opportunities for fruitful engagement between Irish and Emirati companies in these areas. I have already mentioned our strong relationship when it comes to our love of horses. In Ireland, horse racing is part of who we are, and although we are a small nation, we have a proud record of world-class achievement when it comes to thoroughbred breeding. Irish-bred horses occupy four of the top 10 ranked places in the LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, and five of the last seven European Champion two-year olds were bred in Ireland, with six of them trained there. We already have a very close relationship with the UAE when it comes to the horse industry, and I am confident that we can work together to develop further opportunities in this area.

“There are already strong links between the Gulf region and Ireland when it comes to the provision of technology.”

Why should consumers in the UAE buy Irish food products instead of those of rival exporters?

Ireland is a small island nation that is not rich in mineral resources. However, we have a mild maritime climate, plentiful supplies of water, and a landscape of natural pasture lands. We are fortunate to live in an environment designed by nature for quality food production. Our dairy, beef, and sheep products come from grass-fed animals reared outdoors in the most natural conditions possible. As Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, I am acutely conscious of the rare value of these assets. In planning for the development and expansion of the agribusiness sector in Ireland, maintaining a focus on quality production in a natural environment while harnessing the latest technologies to ensure that food is produced in the most sustainable way possible is a key priority. The sustainable production of high-quality foods has been the hallmark of the food industry in Ireland. More than 11% of internationally traded infant formula comes from Ireland, and the fact that three of the four largest manufacturers of infant formula in the world have chosen Ireland as their home is a testament to our reputation for quality, safety, and sustainability. These are the values upon which Ireland stakes its reputation, blending tradition and natural production methods with state-of-the-art technology to produce the best quality food in the world. This is what people buy into when they purchase Irish food products.

How prevalent is knowledge transfer in this sector between the UAE and Ireland?

There are already strong links between the Gulf region and Ireland when it comes to the provision of technology and expertise in the agribusiness sector. The Irish Food Safety Authority has established strong links with its counterpart in Abu Dhabi, and provides advice and information exchange in that field. There is considerable scope for further knowledge transfer, however, and I hope that we can replicate this tremendous success story elsewhere by connecting the right people and developing the right commercial relationships. I hope to be in a position to make a positive contribution to this effort during this visit.

© The Business Year – October 2013

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