Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue met with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) director general QU Dongyu to discuss global food security and the transformation of the food system this week.

As part of the meetings, and reflecting on the Irish famine, Qu Dongyu said: “Food is a basic human right. We must learn from the history lessons of Ireland and the country’s leading role in ensuring food security at global level.”

Speaking after the meeting, Minister McConalogue said he and director general Qu discussed global food security, especially in the context of ongoing conflict, including in Ukraine.

“We also shared with him our experiences in developing our 10-year agri-food strategy, Food Vision 2030. Food Vision 2030 focuses on sustainable food systems and recognises the international dimension of food and agriculture policy.

“We have a strong relationship with [the] FAO and look forward to continuing to support food systems transformation to achieve a world without hunger by 2030,” he said.

Food security

The UN FAO is responsible for driving the UN sustainable development goal (SDG) of creating “zero hunger” on the planet.

The goal aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”.

Food insecurity has become a pressing issue for all countries in the world, with conflict being the main driver behind rising global hunger and malnutrition rates, worsened by climate change and COVID 19.

Irish tour

The visit of director general Qu, who was accompanied by senior officials from FAO, was facilitated by the Department of Agriculture.

It began on Monday at the World Potato Congress and on Tuesday, the director general had engagements with Bord Bia, including meeting a number of Origin Green food and drink companies, to discuss the importance of sustainability credentials in bringing Ireland’s food and drink offering to customers around the world.

The director general also had a meeting with Tom Arnold, Ireland’s special envoy on food systems, who chaired the Food Vision 2030 process.

Farm visit

Director general Qu then visited an Origin Green dairy farm in Wicklow, where farmer Joe Hayden explained his family’s farming tradition and commitment to best practice in sustainable food production

Minister of State Martin Heydon also welcomed the director general to the Teagasc Ashtown Food Research Centre, where Teagasc experts explained their unique role in leading agricultural research, education and advisory services.

The UN FAO leader also visited EPIC, the Irish Emigration Museum, and met with Minister of State Senator Pippa Hackett for an engagement with the Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development (IFIAD).

On Wednesday afternoon Qu met with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and paid a courtesy call to President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.

The director general's stay concluded on Thursday with a visit to the Food Cloud distribution hub in Tallaght and Manor Farm Lodge in Skerries, Co Dublin.