The global food industry faces “deadly serious challenges” with food production and security, Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food & The Marine, Simon Coveney has said.

Speaking at an industry conference in Dublin last week, Coveney told attendees that by 2030, globally, the food industry has to find a way of producing around 50% more food in volume terms.

Coveney was speaking at Bord Bia’s sustainability conference in Dublin last week, where executives from companies including Tesco, Mars and Kerry Group, gathered to discuss the development of sustainable food practices.

The Minister told attendees that in order to produce enough food volumes to hit this target, around 30% more water would be needed and 50% more power generation.

“At a time when we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the effects of climate change, at a time when we have to adapt to that change that we know is already happening, and at a time when we have less agricultural land in which to do it… and at a time when every week that passes there is a population the equivalent of Dublin city being born. This is a challenge.

“It is some responsibility for a generation to ensure those that follow are not fighting over scarce resources and not killing themselves over this. So what we are talking about is a deadly serious challenge, that many of the companies we have heard speak today are genuine about, but it’s not enough.”

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Coveney said decisions had been taken at a European level to “try and deal with” some of the challenges and called on governments and business to work together.

“This must be a partnership between mature politics, that is not actually making decisions for tomorrow but for five to ten years time and also businesses and companies that want to be around in ten years time and need to put in place to ensure they are there and that their consumers and customers are protected.”

Coveney said a revised Common Agricultural Policy had been signed-off in the 48 hours prior to the conference, which he said was “in the wrong place” around two to three years ago.

“Traditionally the EU, in terms of food production, has taken a protectionist approach that has essentially ignored international trends outside of the EU and has essentially deliberately limited supply in order to create artificially high prices to ensure that producing food in Europe, which is more expensive in terms of production and costs, is viable. And rightly so, we insisted on environmental protection for that process.”

The new CAP reforms will see the introduction of direct financial support for farmers, the promotion of a generation change in agriculture across the EU in order to attract younger generations into the industry, and the abolition of milk and sugar quotas.

“We have real flexibility in the Common Agricultural Policy now, whereby countries can actually design and tailor their own support systems to suit the way in which they produce food and that is a huge change from the past.”

He added: “All [EU countries] are fundamentally different in terms of how they produce foods… and you need to give governments a flexibility to be able to design a sustainable system of supports to allow responsible food production and that I’m glad to say, the combination of changes have modernised the approach towards food production in the EU in a way that is positive.”

Turning to the issues surrounding food sourcing and traceability in Europe, Coveney pointed to the horsemeat scandal that hit the food industry on the continent earlier this year.

“We have been fundamentally dishonest in the food industry and the EU in how it functions. [Ireland] has produced food in a very sustainable and responsible way but it hasn’t been enough to feed our consumers and we have made up the difference by importing cheap products from other parts of the world and largely ignoring where that comes from or how it is produced. That is now changing rapidly but that has been the basis of the approach in the past.”