So there is an agreement with 4 South American countries (Mercosur) for free trade. Quite an achievement especially when added onto the Japan and Vietnam trade deals.
But for Irish beef farmers this one seems to be a big problem. The word devastating is used. Devastation to my mind conjures up images of empty fields and beef farmers out of business.
But is that the case?
So we see up to 99,000 tonnes of beef can come into the EU from these 4 countries in the future tariff free.

So EU has population of 512.6 million people as at January 2018. So first number is how many kilos of beef is coming in per person? My calculator is not great at long numbers but it tells me 0.19 kg for every man woman and child. In a year.
In old money that is less than half a LB.

So meat consumption in EU is 65 kg per capita. So that does look significant as 0.19/65 is nearly 0.3% of all meat consumption. On the pure beef consumption it is 1.25% of all beef consumed in the EU. Beef is only a fraction of the meat consumed in the EU.

In 2018 there was 270,000 tonnes of beef imported from Mercosur. That had a tariff of course. So now 99,000 tonnes of this will come in tariff free. So what will the Mercosur exporters do? Will they cut the price to reflect the tariff drop? Will they maintain their price and take the extra profit? Will they share the tariff drop to fund/subsidise more tariff paid exports?

It is important to know the answer. Ireland exports 470 to 560k tonnes of beef. In 2017 there was a largish rise in tonnes exported due to an extra 100,000 animals. This is likely to continue. So any price drop on any or all of this is very significant. Do we assume that the 99,000 tonnes will reduce the price paid for Irish exports? Clearly this is the fear of the Irish producer.

There is further concern that the 99,000 tonnes may be the best quality steak cuts. And if these come in at a lower price it is likely to have a knock on effect on the price of the other cuts.

Everyone recognises this trade deal will have an impact. What the impact is will be clear in time.

The world is increasing beef consumption as wealth and population rises. This is particularly true of China. There is a FAO forecast that there is a 0.5% increase in global consumption every year. It will reach exports of 10 million tonnes in 2019.
The 99,000 tonnes is 1% of this.
So problems ahead. Cost impacts are likely.
The classic answer is to go upmarket . It is clear that the work of Bord Bia with its Origin green scheme is going to be a major factor in getting Irish beef out of the commodity end. The quality of beef, its trace-ability and environmental friendliness will be key to going upmarket.
There is a fund of 1 billion Eur available. Ireland should lean into that heavily and get their product branded. Designation as origine controle (AOC) or getting some geographic designation may be a key strategic goal to get consumer recognition up.
Some form of future contracts might be beneficial too. Far too often Irish farm producers are simply selling stock onto a spot market with few if any alternatives.
This is a good way to get hammered by powerful buyers especially when there are huge seasonal swings in supply.
The impact is clear, prices will be affected. The extent is completely unknown. The Irish industry needs to continue to work to get quality, reliability and value up. Farmers will continue to do their part and will increase efficiency and value of the raw material. The resistance of consumers to the removal of rain forest for soya growing and animal grazing may create a negative attitude towards the South American beef. This could be exploited by a quality Irish product and will help add to the Irish premium image.
If farmers can also get a good scheme to measure and show the carbon sequestration effects of grazing compared to deforestation then a new market advantage may be discovered from this development.
Winning the hearts and minds and pockets of the EU consumer is key. The new adage of produce locally and sell globally has never been more clear!

IRL (Irish Rural Link) Climate change

The excellent organisation held a well attended conference on Rural Ireland and what it can do about climate change in Athlone on May 27, 2019. This is a subject close to our heart.

A great review of lots of projects underway, lots of understanding of the extent of the problem. a nice presentation by Mr. Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner about what might be available in terms of financial supports down the road.

A very diverse group of attendees and all on the days when the ‘green swing’ in the EU parliament elections were being noticed and new MEP’s were being elected.

One small critique, no great call to action , from the speakers. The organisation itself is calling for a climate summit of all parties in Ireland to try to get behind some common goals. From there plans can be made.

Some key takeaways for us.. Electricity decarbonisation is not in the hands of the ?Irish Government but is being managed by EU.

Our main (our being Irish Government and citizens) action zones are in transport and agriculture. That is where the changes must occur.

Ireland is the worst in Europe at decarbonising its economy. We produce more tonnes of CO2 per head than most of our European colleagues.

Some disturbing thoughts. But we are an inventive people and will find a way to get in front of the pack and lead!

Part 3 of Building community

Project 3. Using the power of photographs, before and after agile project management,  to build a rural community and even to help to rebuild it. Using #5g technology, the #IoT, and building off other #smartcities type of projects to try to offer simple actionable projects for #smartrural communities to do. Here is the video.

Project 2 in community

So here we are with Video two , outlining a community project that can be used to help rebuild rural communities. Again we are looking at #smartrural, #smartcities #futureofwork, #tourism, #Iot to try to get a feeling for how these can help in communities.

Remote working

We have read a great deal about this and a recent survey indicates that over 140k people define their work as remote. This seems very large in and Irish context. Further work will be done on this to establish the validity and types of work. A great organisation growremote is working on this with government bodies and are to be commended.

There are some worries on this front too however. Many individuals find that working remote is a bit lonely. They seem to miss the interaction with colleagues and the plain old banter of the world of work. This is helped by joining in and using coworking places. Thankfully these are spreading all over the place. It is critical that employers help support these for the well being  of their team members and also for their own sucess .

As usual the idea of remote working is turning into a blend of working at home, working in coworking centres and other facilities and attendance at the central place of work. (If one actually exists!)

The opportunities in this area are growing and changing by leaps and bounds. Increasingly it is being found that open offices, multitudes of meetings, and micromanagement are actually reducing  productivity. Present day remote workers are a bit like evangalists and are making new ground. Turst is the key to future success in this area.

Changes in management skills and also in employee skills will be needed to make sure that remote workers are managed well and feel a productive and valuable part of an organisation. That is a two way street. Thankfully there are more and more people reporting about their direct experiences and the good and bad apples in the barrell.

The future of work in the workplace seems to be moving. There will be more automation of routine works. Some evidence based decision making will change too as computers will be able to consider more variables than us poor human brains. We see this in reports of improved early diagnosis of skin cancers by machines rather than by Doctors.   So work will change at the basic end and at the high end. ( in terms of perceived value rewarded per hour)

New skills will be needed and we will all need to adapt. But that is what we are good at. So no fears, onwards!


Drink Link Entertainment

We read a bit recently about the countryside needing an Uber type service to bring people home from the pub. It is an interesting request and one made at minister and TD level. We think it fits in nicely with the community building in Smartrural.

With the right platforms: neighbours, friends and even taxi operators could be connected. The public house owner can give a sort of early warning over the community platform. Along the lines, there is a big crowd in here, we’ll need to get at least 6 people home later. Or the opposite, its a quiet night. Local knowledge , local information all on a community platform.

Sharing and helping is always a feature of rural communities. Lately it has becme more difficult as the platforms took us away in FB land or the world of twitter and the like. The future and new technology can be built to bring us back to the community and actually serve the needs of the community rather than the needs of large gloabl organisations.


We have a wee story to tell of a small community in Spain. It is completely bereft of any sources of entertainment. The last saloon/pub/bar was closed down about 6 years ago. There is no restaurant, post office, shop or anything commercial. The village has a community hall and a sports ground, but sadly no one to use them on a day to day basis as they are now too large for the few people left during weekdays.

However one of the residents has decided that he would like to keep some sense of community and entertainment. So every Friday night he get his projector set up on a white wall in his garden, selects a film (or two), gets a few plates and some glasses and some cutlery. The neighbours arrive with some drinks, snacks and some nibbles.

The owner has good internet (not 5G)  but downloads the film in advance- just in case. Sometimes it rains and they go inside, sometimes they forget to start the film they are chatting so much.

He may be breaking some copyright but he hopes not as it is a group of friends and extended family.

He hopes that when Iot comes in play and more and more people are working in a location they love, that the village will come back to life. He has great hopes for the futue of work!

They have a great night and stop the film a couple of times to eat a bit of food and chat. The whole event has about 25 people and is a regular part of their village life.

Re living in the country

So eventually it will come down to money. When one is balancing up where to live, city or coutry. If there are equal opportunities then lets look at the finances. There is a bit more to do in this but most people seem to think that city living is quite dear,. Starting off with accomodation.
Renting or buying is quite different in the country side vs the cities, Just look at any of the rental sites and make a quick comparison. For cost of a small 1 bed studio you can have a large 4 bedroom house in many locations.
Commuting is somehwat different, but again it usually works out less expensive as bringing children to school is less difficult , going to work is usually just in your home.
Food, well living in the county according to all the statistics will give you better value. You may not get as many ready to go meals but when you are saving hours of commute time every day, you may have a few minutes to cook real food from scratch.
Social life is always cheaper with meals, cinema etc much cheaper. The cost of babysitting is way less too if you are in the position to need one.
It is hard enough to find out what is dearer to be honest. Happy for input on this one. !

Spirituality #smartrural

We live in a diverse world with many people following various philosophies regarding the meaning of life and the after life.

These are quite easy to explore and express in many of our larger cities of the world. However with the advent of 5g, IoT etc the geographic and colocation of practice and support are less of a problem than in the past.

As technology advances with augmented, extended, and virtual reality, the participation in the chosen philosophy by the individual or community,  is less difficult and will become more and more satisfying as individuals will be able to connect to the thought and practice leaders in the domain and participate in those practices which most closely align with their beliefs and values.

This will and can happen in cities but also in rural communities, adding a dimension not present before and one that further erodes the perceived benefits of living in cities.