I thank the committee for the opportunity to address it. I refer to the Department's appropriation account for 2017 and two associated sets of financial statements. The first is a non-statutory account, provided for the sake of transparency, which shows the interaction between the funding received from the European Union and the Department's Vote.
This funding is accounted for separately under EU rules and audited by the EU institutions. Because the bulk of it is not matched by national funds, much of it does not appear in the Department’s appropriation account and therefore these financial statements provide a fuller picture of total departmental expenditure at both national and EU levels.
The second is the financial statements for the six fisheries harbour centres owned and operated by the Department. I will begin with the appropriation account. The Department’s gross Estimate for 2017 was €1.49 billion. This included a carryover of capital savings of €21.7 million from 2016. This represented an overall increase of almost €120 million over the gross voted Estimate for 2016. The gross outturn was €1.387 billion, an increase of €131 million over 2016. The Department received a technical Supplementary Estimate to further address emerging priorities by the transfer of funds within the Vote. I will refer to this in my later remarks. The Department also receives appropriations-in-aid. These principally comprise EU receipts in respect of rural development and animal disease programmes. In 2017 these receipts amounted to €258.9 million, some €78 million less than the Estimate of €337 million, largely because EU receipts expected in December 2017 in respect of rural development schemes were not received until January 2018.
The Department’s Vote is divided into four programmes, each representing a key policy priority. Programme A relates to the food safety, animal health and welfare and plant health programmes that underpin our agrifood sector. These include disease eradication programmes such as those relating to tuberculosis, TB, or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, TSEs, testing for residues in food products, on-farm controls, plant protection controls and other such headings. Programme expenditure under this heading amounted to just over €80 million in 2017, excluding staff and administration costs. This is a saving of €5.5 million compared to the budgeted amount.
Programme B covers our major farm support schemes other than basic payments, which are entirely EU-funded. By and large, these schemes are intended to encourage sustainable agricultural practices and most of them receive co-funding from the EU under the rural development programme. The final allocation for these schemes in 2017, following a Supplementary Estimate, came to just under €806 million. This was some €182 million greater than the €623 million outturn in 2016. In 2017 almost 50,000 people participated in the green low-carbon agri-environment scheme, GLAS. More than 24,000 participated in the beef data and genomics scheme and the sheep welfare and knowledge transfer schemes were launched. Other co-funded schemes included the areas of national constraint scheme, the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme, TAMS, the organics scheme, and the forestry programme, which alone among these schemes is 100% nationally funded. The eventual outturn was for this programme was €726 million. This was more than €100 million greater than the previous year but also €80 million short of the available funds. Key factors in this shortfall were the fact that participation in the new schemes for sheep welfare and knowledge transfer was lower than provided for, and an adjustment to deadlines for certain actions in the knowledge transfer scheme slowed the payment process, with some falling into 2018. Similarly, our ambitious target for payments to a very high portion of GLAS participants within the calendar year was not achieved. However, for the 2018 scheme year close to 90% of GLAS applicants were paid their annual advance within the calendar year.
On the capital side, the TAMS investment scheme saw a greatly improved drawdown compared to 2016 with €33 million spent, although drawdown was lower than the provision. To help with the financial management of the scheme we reduced the time allowed for applicants to submit payment claims. The experience in the past 18 months reflects good levels of investment in improved on-farm facilities. Expenditure on the forestry programme was lower than hoped in 2017, and this remains a continuing but critically important challenge. The capital carryover into 2018 from 2017 was largely drawn from the TAMS and forestry savings in 2017. I should say that programme B also includes an element of national funding on EU market support schemes such as intervention.
Programme C, policy and strategy, includes expenditure on research and training and several food support schemes, as well as grants-in-aid to some of our State agencies. The outturn slightly exceeded the voted allocation of €338 million, due partly to several additional measures designed to help build resilience in the sector to confront the challenge of Brexit. Those initial measures included an increase in Bord Bia's allocation by €8.6 million to assist it in its marketing and promotion of Irish food overseas. In addition, the sum of €9 million was provided for the agri-food sector component of the SME Brexit loan scheme. This scheme was jointly established by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, in conjunction with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland. Along with €14 million from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, this provision leveraged a working capital loan fund of €300 million for SMEs at an interest rate not exceeding 4%. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine contribution ensured that at least 40% of the fund would be available for the food sector. Savings which emerged in other parts of the programme, particularly research, allowed us to respond to a specific request from the World Food Programme for the earliest possible release of the final element of funding under our 2016-2018 strategic partnership agreement. This resulted in payments of €14 million to the World Food Programme in 2017.
Programme D relates to seafood. Expenditure under this heading in 2017 included some €21 million for the upgrading and development of fisheries harbours. Around 88% of fish landed in Ireland now are landed into the six centres owned by the Department. The value of those landings has increased from €224.3 million in 2013 to €271.5 million in 2017. Programme D also includes €5.6 million under the seafood development programme and grants-in-aid to the Marine Institute, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, BIM, and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority. This programme also includes expenditure of €4 million on the commencement of substantive work on the remediation of Haulbowline Island.
I will now touch very briefly on the financial statements of the Irish operations for the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime Fisheries Fund. This account consolidates financial data on a calendar year basis, incorporating EU and Vote funds. It was devised in the early 2000s, at the request of this committee, to provide visibility of expenditure across all these funds as some of the expenditure is not Vote-related. Notable features in 2017 include EU receipts of more than €1.5 billion across the Irish operations of the three funds. When combined with the national Exchequer funding of €266.6 million, total expenditure under the funds in 2017 amounts to €1.77 billion. More generally, I know that the Comptroller and Auditor General has prepared a special report on the full range of Ireland’s transactions with the EU in 2017. That report provides a very clear picture of Ireland’s engagement with the EU across all funds and all Departments.
Finally, I would like to refer to the account relating to fisheries harbour centres. The harbours were the subject of a special report in 2014 and we are continuing to address some of the recommendations. Turning to the financial performance of the harbours themselves, the higher level of harbour dues and profit on disposal were the main factors behind the increases in receipts and the surplus on the revenue account. The accounts also show the substantial increase in capital investment at the harbours with substantial projects at each of the six harbours, the vast majority of which is funded through the Department's Vote.
I thank the Chairman and the members of the committee for their attention and I will try to answer any questions that arise.