It is difficult to see a future for the Irish family farm without the creation of new, farmer-controlled processing, sales and distribution capacities. They are to provide a cohesive supply-chain to premium, international markets. The Foundation is investigating the potential for two new supply-chain components, an export hub to consolidate product and a marketing and sales desk.
The Irish Rural Foods Network has a local market focus. It is about reconnecting Irish family farms with the Ireland-based consumer. Even so it can only go so far as Ireland with is small domestic market has to export much of its produce. Hence, the idea is to create a specific link in the supply-chain to enable those who started by supplying the Irish market to access export markets.
The proposed link would be an export hub to handle a variety of premium products produced by small-scale food producers. Its role would not just be to facilitate market access but also to act as a consolidator of products that have been ‘standardized’ through the use of designated origin schemes [see elsewhere]. It would be located in the south-east within easy reach of Roslare and its ferry links to the very large consumer markets of the United Kingdom and the Continent.
The second part of the proposal is to create a dedicated capacity to continuously support those whose aim is to develop export markets for premium Irish foods. The idea behind the ‘sales and marketing desk’ is that it is a fully-focused and proactive sales and marketing team dedicated to the promotion of premium Irish food products produced by smaller-sized food producers and farmer groups. It will also facilitate sales by developing and maintaining relationships with foreign buyers and it will organise the logistics and supply chains required to distribute the food products.