Are you confident in the future of the Irish agri food industry?
We’re seeing really high employment rates for students coming out of undergraduate level and postgraduate courses. Students are going to work for major agri-food processers in Ireland such as Musgraves, Kerry, Glanbia and Dairygold. Others are joining Bord Bia to work internationally.
Does Ireland have a strong reputation internationally for agri-food education?
Ireland has an image as a food island and we’re a big food exporter with a lot of Irish multinationals based in markets around the world. Irish food companies are interested in taking international students into their business because it gives them the opportunity to meet students from markets where they do business. If students are suitable, companies can employ them back in their home country.
Is Brexit having an impact?
Brexit has resulted in a lot of students that would have previously gone to the UK now coming to Ireland. Across the Irish universities, the number of international students has doubled over the last couple of years. It’s one of the few silver linings in the cloud of Brexit.
How do you see the next CAP evolving?
The biggest concern I would have is that we’re losing the common nature of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Once a policy becomes devolved, the next question might be why the budget isn’t devolved also.
The idea of allowing member states have more control over subsidy payments should be good for Ireland overall as we will have a policy designed for Ireland.
Will the next CAP be more environmentally focused?
It’s hard to say at this point because there’s such a long negotiation process and things can change so much but the words from the Commissioner have been pretty clear in the role of agriculture in protecting against climate change and supplying a safe, secure supply of food that has the minimum possible impact on the environment. I think the difference this time possibly is any environmental policies we have will be results-driven. So it won’t necessarily be payments for compliance or participation but it might be payments for actually delivering some sort of environmental good.
What does UCC offer in agri-food education?
The Bachelor of Commerce (BComm) from UCC’s business school has always had the option to specialise in food. We also offer a specialised food business degree in food marketing and entrepreneurship. UCC is currently at the advanced stages of developing an agricultural science undergraduate programme. We’re also starting a Masters in Science (MSc) in Food Business and Innovation, which will focus on emerging food business trends globally with a special focus on innovation. The second course starting this autumn is an MSc in co-operatives, agri-food and sustainability.
20 minutes with Michael Finegan, Boyne Valley Cheese