The lack of direction and a plan based on scientific facts, along with the potential introduction of multiple land use policies, is endangering Ireland’s €14.5bn food exports sector, according to the Agricultural Science Association (ASA).

The ASA has said that Ireland is facing a potential loss of between 750,000 and one million hectares of food-producing farmland in the next 20 to 25 years.

This, it said, is due to an array of new directives and policies requiring more land for various purposes, leaving the future of food production in Ireland facing significant uncertainty.

"There is now a serious concern as to a lack of a Government blueprint action plan for our island’s food production, given that with all these policies together will mean there's going to be less land area available to produce food.

"As one of the most sustainable food systems in the world, are we reducing our food producing and export capacity to move production to another country where emissions will be higher?" the ASA questioned.


Recent policy decisions have highlighted the increasing demand for land across multiple fronts, according to the ASA.

The first being the changes to the nitrates directive - farmers will need additional land to maintain current cow numbers, aligning with new nitrate regulations.

This shift, the ASA argued, poses a challenge to maintain livestock numbers with more land or reduce cow numbers altogether and production.

The Government’s anaerobic digestion targets will also require substantial land allocation of up to 300,000ha, the ASA said, further straining available agricultural land.


Ireland aims to increase forestry cover from 11% to 18%, demanding significant land resources. In order to reach 18% forestry cover, the Government needs to plant just over 440,000ha alone, the ASA said.

Rewetting initiatives and solar projects will also increase the demand for land, while the expansion of organic farming in Ireland may reduce food output due to lower productivity compared with conventional farming.

ASA president Niamh Bambrick said: “We need to ask where is the joined up thinking and scientific baseline of which these decisions are being based upon when it comes to the next 20 years of food production here?

"Our annual conference theme for this year is around our global food exports and connecting with the global consumer. You only have a consumer if you have something to sell them.

"Also, it needs to be noted that farmers are very much on a journey to improve the environmental credentials of agriculture by making many changes that are proven scientifically to reduce our emissions, but we must help - not hinder - them in this process.

"Farmers are unable to make long-term plans as the goalposts keep moving weekly - the basis for which have to be questioned.

"Farmers also reinvest their earnings into the local economy, so reducing food production impacts this cycle, potentially diminishing the economic vitality of rural areas," she said.

By aligning various land use policies with food production goals, Ireland can ensure the sustainability of its agricultural sector, protect rural economies and maintain its status as a leading food exporter, she argued.

The upcoming ASA conference on Thursday 5 September in the Lyrath Hotel is themed 'Trading with the global consumer' on agricultural exports and global consumer connections.

It will discuss these pressing issues and look to challenge policy makers to develop solutions to ensure Ireland’s agricultural sector adapts effectively to these changes.