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Farming is Ireland's new boom industry

Thursday, July 05, 2012 - 02:43

As Ireland returns to the markets for the first time since it was bailed out Reuters finds out how a farming renaissance is helping it emerge from the economic gloom. Ciara Sutton reports

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From concrete to cows - that's the story of Richie Dollard's life in Ireland. He used to be a construction worker - until the country's property bubble burst in 2008. Richie went home to his family's diary farm in rural Kilkenny intending to plan a new escape. Instead he found he was at the centre of the country's next boom industry (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAIRY FARMER, Richie SAYING: "It's the one industry that's taken off at the moment. Farming is flying. I think the markets are there for milking. I think Ireland is such a good grass growing country that it will be easy to expand this industry." Almost two years after being bailed out Ireland's economy is bucking the trend. It's budget deficit has fallen and tax revenue is ahead of target. The farming renaissance is helping - boosted by record high milk and beef prices. Richie now runs his father's dairy farm after studying agriculture at college He has plans to double stock in the next two years, and says he has big business ambitions. PTC Richie isn't the only one to have abandoned a career in Ireland's ailing construction industry and gone back to his roots. The number of applications to agriculture college have doubled as a new generation of farmers seek to enter the country's most lucrative industry. At Kildalton Agricultural college the lecture rooms are seeing more mature students. And many courses - says Principal Frank Murphy - are over subscribed. (SOUNDBITE) (English) KILDALTON AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE PRINCIPAL, FRANK MURPHY, SAYING: "The life experience they bring back into the classroom is tremendous. They tend to ask lots of searching questions, so from that point of view that has been a positive thing. It has also helped the younger school leavers because it helps to bring a sense of realism into the classroom." With an abundance of fertile land and plenty of rain, Ireland's low-cost grass-based cattle and dairy industry has a relatively low carbon footprint. And the country's food companies have worked hard to promote the sector's "good image" around the world. Irish meat is already the favoured choice of McDonald's restaurants across Europe. (SOUNDBITE) (English) KILDALTON AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE PRINCIPAL, FRANK MURPHY, SAYING: "I think if you came back to us in another five years I think you'll see that output will have gone up and stock numbers will have gone up but it will be a matter of doing that in a way that's sustained and handed on to the next generation in the state that the current generation picked it up. Much has been said about the need to drive growth in the euro zone. In Ireland it seems they're finding a future by digging into their past. Ciara Sutton, Reuters

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Farming is Ireland's new boom industry

Thursday, July 05, 2012 - 02:43