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Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the Irish Economy


  • The authors would like to thank Brendan Kennelly, Bob Thornton and participants at the 2nd International Conference on the Irish Economy on 7–8 April 2011 in Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper. This research was partly funded through the Beaufort Marine Research Award, which is carried out under the Sea Change Strategy and the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation (2006–13), with the support of the Marine Institute, funded under the Marine Research Sub-Programme of the National Development Plan 2007–13.


Throughout the Celtic Tiger years, the contribution of agriculture to Irish gross domestic product and employment declined as other sectors of the economy boomed. Not surprisingly, interest in the sector over this period, from both the popular media and public representatives, declined. However, since the start of the downturn in Ireland’s economic fortunes in late 2007, there has been a renewed interest in the sector. The Irish government’s Food Harvest 2020 strategy has set ambitious targets for the expansion of the Irish agricultural fisheries and food sector, but the achievement of these targets will be dependent on overcoming a number of structural and environmental constraints. This paper examines the characteristics of this important indigenous sector in the Irish economy and the major constraints facing it. This study concludes with a discussion on whether or not the agriculture, fisheries and food sector is in a position to contribute to Ireland’s economic recovery.