88% of Irish consumers believe the agri-food industry is key to the Irish economy

Agri Aware’s survey, conducted by Ipsos MRBI, on the general public’s perception of the Irish agri-food industry has shown that:

 

(Summary)

·         88%of people surveyed think that the agriculture and food sector is extremely/very important to the Irish economy – that’s up from 65% of people in 1997.

·         75% say Irish farmers treat their livestock very well/well.

·         57% of people think Irish school children have a reasonable or good understanding of agriculture and farming.

·         Half of people surveyed say spending time on a farm is the best way to learn about farmers and farming – up from 30% in 1997.

·         91%of people surveyed either always or sometimes make an effort to buy Irish food.

·         89%of Irish consumers said that they always or sometimes check the origin of food that they buy-age appears to be the key here, as over half of those  aged 55+ years always check origin of food, while 21% of 15-24 year olds would never check food origin

·         3/4cite supporting jobs in the Irish economy/keeping money in Ireland as a reason for buying Irish. Almost a fifth said they do so because the quality is better than imported food.

·         58% of people surveyed in 1997 said that farming was beneficial or very beneficial for the countryside and this figure has now soared to 88%.

·         91%of people surveyed agreed that the Irish countryside is important in attracting tourists to Ireland.

·         More than half think a career in farming or the agri-food industry is a good career option for a young person today. The reasons for this are: employment opportunities (33%), the sector being the key to economic recovery and the economy (20%), a good lifestyle (18%) and it being a sustainable industry as people will always need to eat (11%).

·         Almost 80% of people surveyed were unaware of any government/industry plans to progress the agri-food sector.

·         75%agreed that the high levels of rainfall this summer created more work for farmers and willreduce farm income.

·         Only 55% think that food produced from animals fed on grass has health benefits over and above food produced from animals fed with grain.

 

Agri Aware, the agri-food educational body has just released the results of an independent survey conducted by Ipsos MRBI, in relation to the general public’s perception of the Irish agri-food industry. Highlighting the increasing importance of the agri-food industry to the Irish economy, 88% of people surveyed this year rated the industry as extremely or very important (compared to only 65% in 1997). However, despite this, a surprising 79% of people surveyed were unaware of any plans developed by the government and the industry to progress the agri-food sector.

In relation to the value of Irish agri-food exports, 59% of people surveyed believed that exports had increased. Higher quality (36%) and reputation of Irish produce (17%) are considered key drivers for the growth in Irish agri-food businesses.

In terms of the contribution of farming to the Irish countryside and rural environment, 58% of people surveyed in 1997 said that farming was beneficial or very beneficial for the countryside and this figure has now soared to 88%. Additionally, 91% of people surveyed agreed that the Irish countryside is important in attracting tourists to Ireland. Commenting on the figures, Agri Aware Chairman, Bernard Donohue highlighted their link with CAP: “CAP has surely played a key role in helping Irish farmers to deliver a countryside to be proud of, attracting tourists, which inevitably plays a pivotal role in our economy,” said Mr Donohue.

Irish farmers pride themselves in delivering world class animal welfare standards and this message is evident among consumers. In 1997, 56% of people surveyed believed that farmers treated their animals very well or well. Today, 75% of the population believe that this is the case.

Irish farmers also play a crucial role in terms of continuously improving Ireland’s water quality, where 77% of people surveyed agreed that investment on farms will further improve the quality of Ireland’s vital resource.

In 1997, 43% of people surveyed thought that children had a reasonable or good understanding of farming, with 57% of today’s population believing that this is the case. Moreover, in 1997, 57% of people surveyed said that children had a poor understanding of farming, with 25% believing this is the case today. Agri Aware’s Chairman, Bernard Donohue said these results highlight the important role of Agri Aware, as the independent agri-food educational body that actively communicates the industry to students and the general public. “Students and the general public now have a much better understanding of farming and the agri-food industry than they had 15 years ago,” he said. “However, this is an area that requires constant work to ensure that we continue to build on the current levels of awareness. Today’s youth will be tomorrow’s industry leaders and they will be in a good position to make informed purchasing decisions”.

Some 50% of people surveyed thought that spending time on a farm was the most effective way to find out about farmers and farming. Commenting on this result, Agri Aware’s Chairman highlighted the importance of Family Farm, developed by Agri Aware and Dublin Zoo, as a resource to educate the general public about farming and the agri-food industry.

When asked how often, if at all, 89% of Irish consumers said that they always or sometimes check the origin of food that they buy. Indeed, some 91% of people surveyed either always or sometimes make an effort to buy Irish. When asked, 74% of those who always or sometimes make an effort to buy Irish food said they bought Irish to support jobs in the Irish economy and/or to keep money in Ireland. Some 23% of these also felt that they were supporting local business.

Only 55% of those surveyed thought that food produced from animals fed on grass had health benefits over and above food produced from animals fed with grain. Mr. Donohue commented that “this is disappointing as Ireland is extremely well positioned in terms of producing very high quality food, with green grass being a core element of this. With beneficial fatty acids in grass and the carbon sequestration potential of Irish grassland, it is important that the Irish consumer is aware of the high quality, healthy food that is grown and sustainably produced on Irish farms”.

In the past 5 years, the number of students completing the Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science exam has increased by 61% (from 4,267 in 2007 to 6,889 students in 2012). This is echoed in the survey results as just over half of those questioned felt that a career in farming or the agri-food industry is a good career option for a young person today. When asked for the reason for their views, respondents cited employment opportunities (33%), the sector being the key to economic recovery and the economy (20%), a good lifestyle (18%) and it being a sustainable industry as people will always need to eat (11%).

Mr. Donohue remarked on the importance of the Irish agri-food sector and said “the great opportunities that exist for producing quality, sustainable food will have a significant impact on employment opportunities, export earnings and tourism, all of which will play a significant role in the recovery of the Irish economy”.

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