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Could Ireland survive without importing anything?

  • 04-06-2024 12:03am
    Registered Users Posts: 650 ✭✭✭

    If, for whatever reason, we could no longer import food or energy - would it be difficult, or even possible, to keep the population fed?

    Assuming we'd be eating a lot of beef for a while…



  • Registered Users Posts: 650 ✭✭✭Pompous

    I should have clarified: this hypothetical would be a sudden stoppage of imports. Like a natural disaster or WWIII taking down supply routes. So we wouldn't have time to prepare by switching to better crops for example.

  • Registered Users Posts: 185 ✭✭Aurelian

    One is reminded of DeValera's attempts to grow tobacco.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,989 ✭✭✭saabsaab

    Ireland produces enough food especially dairy and meat to feed over 20 million people.

  • Registered Users Posts: 381 ✭✭geographica

    Eamon Ryan would says yes, but only if you have a south facing windowledge and a packet of lettuce seeds

  • Registered Users Posts: 381 ✭✭geographica

    The amount of fish from our waters shipped to Spain and France we’d be ok for seafood

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,935 ✭✭✭gipi

    Lots of food, but no power to cook it (no imported gas so no electricity), no fuel to transport the food around the country either.

  • Registered Users Posts: 78,352 ✭✭✭✭Victor

    Nope. Because those industries are utterly dependent on imported grain, which the OP has said you can't do.

    Edit: Reflecting on this, we have to appreciate that most Irish cattle are kept indoors for 3-4 months per year. Trying to feed the grass in fields during the cold weather would mean weight loss, illness and the fields being in utter mush from the weight of the cattle on wet ground. Without the imported grain and the ability to harvest silage with machinery, the risk is that many cattle and other animals would starve if the disruption lasted for a winter. A cull of a large number of the animals would reduce demand for feed and allow those cattle to be fed to other cattle, oh sorry we don't do that any more, to humans.

    Post edited by Victor on

  • Registered Users Posts: 78,352 ✭✭✭✭Victor

    With no fuel, how are you going to catch and distribute the fish?

  • Registered Users Posts: 134 ✭✭Greengrass53

    We'd be fine after an initial disruption. We have enough food to feed ourselves 10 times over. Energy wise we now produce 30 % of our own thru wind alone. Thanks to the efforts of people like eamon Ryan this is increasing all the time. With more offshore turbines being rolled out we can easily double this by 2030.

  • Registered Users Posts: 78,352 ✭✭✭✭Victor

    While the situation would be dire, 40% of our electricity (electricity, not total energy, which is much higher) comes from wind. We have some indigenous gas and other sources. The problem would be to stop resources being frittered away.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 723 ✭✭✭GSBellew

    Sail boat, donkey and kart, like it was in the old days.

    That is what would have to happen if we could not import fuel.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,307 ✭✭✭MrMusician18

    With ample use of fossil fuel derived fertiliser and fossil fueled machinery.

    If Ireland lost access to all imports there would be a breakdown in social order within a few weeks and a outright famine in months

  • Registered Users Posts: 381 ✭✭geographica

  • Registered Users Posts: 78,352 ✭✭✭✭Victor

    And would the catch be comparable to what the other poster says in "The amount of fish from our waters shipped to Spain and France we’d be ok for seafood"?

  • Registered Users Posts: 20,865 ✭✭✭✭dxhound2005

    We'd all have to go shopping in Newry.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,491 ✭✭✭StudentDad

    The population in the 19th century before the famine was higher that it is now. If we couldn't import food or energy I'm assuming there would be no flights or shipping. Has the wider world bought it? Are we an isolated little island? It'd get pretty agrarian, but to answer your question. Yes we would be grand. Who needs a new laptop from China anyway?

  • Registered Users Posts: 16,014 ✭✭✭✭whisky_galore

    Vegans would die out.

    Not necessarily a bad thing.

  • Registered Users Posts: 26,334 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    The pre-famine population was higher than now, but the great bulk of them lived in abject poverty, and even that was sustained by some imports. The staple diet of the peasantry was potatoes, bacon, butter, tea, sugar, and two of those five foods were imported. (Imports were paid for by growing grain for export.) Even the relatively simple agricultural implements used by the peasantry to produce food were imported. (Indeed, virtually all manufactured goods other than some textiles —wool and linen — were imported.) To the extent that they required metal, imported agricultural implements could not be replaced by local manufacture that was not itself dependent on imports. How well do you think we'd fare with wooden spades?

    The OP's scenario is a sudden stoppage of imports, with no time to prepare for the transition. Even if we were willing to go back to pre-famine levels of consumption, the transition from our current import-dependent agricultural practices would take years. For example, without powered machinery, we have to raise a large national herd of beasts of burden to maturity to, e.g, draw ploughs, power milling and threshing engines, pull carts. During the several years required to do this, many of us would starve.

    We'd all have a much more nearly vegan or vegetarian diet than we do now. During the transition period it would be crucial to use the limited food production resources available to us with maximal efficiency, so that as few as possible would starve. Agricultural resources are used vastly more efficiently when put to the production of vegetable crops as food than when put to the production of fodder for animals that are to be slaughtered and eaten. A lot of what's now pasture would be put to the production of food crops. The onion- and turnip-ranchers of Meath would be the new elite!

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,070 ✭✭✭Padre_Pio

    Not a chance. Ireland makes a lot of foodstuffs, but very little actual food.

    Sure around here there's thousands of acres given to barley for whiskey .

    No way would farmers be able to pivot and provide enough food for the population. Even if we could grow it, we don't have the resources to refine it and transport it.

    Just for fun, read the book World War Z about a zombie apocalypse. Nothing to do with the movie. There's a chapter where society is trying to rebuild itself, but no one has even basic skills. There's a lovely bit where a cleaner becomes the supervisor of her former employer, because the employer used to be a digital marketer which is now a useless job

  • Registered Users Posts: 78,352 ✭✭✭✭Victor

    Potato 74 Kcal per 100g.
    Onion 40 Kcal per 100g.
    Turnip 28 Kcal per 100g.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,507 ✭✭✭Field east

    By horse and cart or by bicycle if you hav’nt. horse

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,634 ✭✭✭SouthWesterly

  • Registered Users Posts: 12,502 ✭✭✭✭machiavellianme

    Unless we have some way to stabilise the grid with asynchronous generation, very little of our electricity will be coming from Wind or Solar.

    We have (at best) 10% of our gas needs coming from Corrib, the rest is imported. In an emergency, GNI will prioritise residential rather than industrial customers. Therefore 0% gas will go towards electricity production. Eirgrid currently has a system stability limit known as the SNSP which is set to 75% for non synchronous sources. That means that for every 1 MW of electricity produced, 25% of it will have to come from synchronous sources such as thermal or hydroelectric.

    We have approximately 500 MW of run of river hydro and pumped storage, so in theory we could have 1.5 GW of wind or solar to complement it. But both hydro and pumped storage are energy limited and cannot run at peak output indefinitely. In summertime, unless it's particularly rainy, the hydros won't be able to run much at all. Pumped storage can only run while the reservoir is full, once it is empty, then you have to use your limited electricity to fill it again. In this case, you'd be using the 200 MW of hydro plus 600 MW of wind or solar. But again, if it's not raining, good luck...

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,070 ✭✭✭Padre_Pio

    funny enough, 99% of domestic solar would stop working when the grid went down. I don't think many people are set up to island their system.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,333 ✭✭✭BrianD3

    Even with the amount of agricultural land we have and our low population density, we'd be just as fcuked as other countries. Societal breakdown would start within hours as thousands of idiots descended on supermakets to fight each other over white bread and toilet roll.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,609 ✭✭✭thinkabouit

    We absolutely could.
    It would be totally different system to what we no now.

    But our agricultural policy’s at the moment have us extremely vulnerable to something like this at the moment. I think we would run out of food very very fast. And it will fail at some point

    I keep a close eye in the supermarket of where it’s coming from. Blueberries from chile or South Africa! For f##k sake. Most veg coming from Holland or Spain. Apples from New Zealand!!!


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,070 ✭✭✭Padre_Pio

    Yep, that's the seasons though.

    Our winter is their summer, the alternative is no summer fruits in the off season, or we build vertical farms and grown everything in artificial conditions.

    I saw a company selling 40 foot containers which contain everything needs to grow fodder for cattle. They're designed to be dropped in African countries. You feed water, seeds and liquid fertilizer in one side and get a constant feed of grass put the other. I was thinking would it work for human edible grasses too

  • Registered Users Posts: 16,014 ✭✭✭✭whisky_galore

  • Registered Users Posts: 117 ✭✭1percent

    Breakimg it down, what is important is food, water heat/energy, shelter and security. We would have 12 to 24 months or 2 or 3 harvests to rejig the economy and society in this scenario before seriousprobems would arrise,

    Regarding heat/energy; NORA has 12months supply of oil at current usage with immediate rationing and shuttering of non essential industries, I'm looking at you data centers, we could strech it to 24months. Gas would be a challenge alright but with corib, quick development of bio methane reactor and exteam rationing we could get part of the way their. I also think there is a bit of coal still in the ground down in castlecommer.

    Food wise we are fine, massive roll out of back yard veg patches and huge drive for composting, and restrictive use of fertilisers already on shore we can more than feed ourselves.

    Water, non issue, literally falls from the sky here is excessive amounts

    Security would be the challenge for us, there would need to be a zero tolerance, f about and find out policy. Internment of malcontents and heavy handed approach approach non compliance. We all need to be inthis together and anyone pedeling backwards removed.

    Life would be very diferant and not for the better but as a nation we could survive with most of society intact

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  • Registered Users Posts: 26,334 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus

    Nobody said the coming apocalypse would be tasty.