Ireland’s sustainability credentials are a “licence to supply” some of the biggest buyers of dairy products in the world, according to CEO of Kerry Group’s dairy business Pat Murphy.
Speaking at the launch of Teagasc’s new climate action strategy on Thursday, he said dairy buyers have signed up to environmental, social and governance targets on their own and they have to deliver on those as well over the next number of years.
“If they are going to buy dairy from a company in Ireland, you have to have a sustainability programme in place with your farmers, a carbon reduction programme in place with you farmers, otherwise they won’t deal with you.
“The next thing then they want is, while we have progress across the industry, they want to see the metrics that are coming from those programmes.
“We had the Origin Green Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS), where we have been getting carbon footprints from our dairy farmers over the last two or three years, but ... we now have to go further.
"We have to show improvement year on year to these customers, otherwise you won’t have a licence to supply our dairy to some of the biggest global companies across the world,” he said.
“We now have to show progression from the density we have today in dairy and we [are at] about 0.95kg of carbon dioxide per kilo of milk solids. We now have to show how that’s going to come down.
“All we need to do is give clear messages, clear direction to farmers. Farmers are very resilient; all they want is clear messages,” he said.
He also said that there is a cost to all of the carbon accounting and actions to cut emissions.
“From a processor’s perspective, we want the customer to pay for this. The consumer has to pay more for this product over the next number of years and there is challenge to that,” he said.
It is absolutely essential that the sector delivers on its carbon reduction targets, Philip Carroll of Meat Industry Ireland said.
“What the customers want, they need to get, but we’ve been dealing with that over the years.
“Our specifications are reflective of what customers have been demanding in the marketplace for many years,” he said. Carroll said Ireland needs to “amplify” its environmental credentials. We’re not doing enough about that.
There is a real commitment on behalf of farmers and the processing sector to reach the 25% target, he added.