An Bord Bia Bill, 1994: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Before the curtain fell on my contribution some weeks ago I outlined in detail why I had reservations about the content of the Bill. The final point I want to make has been touched on by Deputies from all over the country, namely, the matter of a headquarters for An Bord Bia. Deputies from Malin Head to Mizen Head staked a claim for the location of the headquarters of An Bord Bia in their area. The location of the headquarters is not a question of political patronage but of logic. The decision by the Government and the Minister to rule out Cork as a location defies logic. Munster is the centre of agricultural production. More food is produced and processed in Munster than in any other region and Cork is its capital. Most of the major players in the food industry, such as Kerry Co-op, Dairygold, Golden Vale, Avonmore and Waterford Foods are located in the Munster area and that, together with the range of meat processing plants and other food processing facilities located in the Munster region, makes a strong case for the location of the headquarters of An Bord Bia in the Cork region.

There has been considerable investment in technology and personnel in University College Cork and in Moore Park, both of which are internationally recognised for their contribution to the development of the food industry. When one considers such investment and the significant players to which I referred, it defies logic that the Government should turn its back on Cork as a centre for the headquarters of An Bord Bia. The biotechnology centre in UCC is a significant contributor to developments in the food industry and the faculties of dairy and meat science at UCC are long established and have produced excellent scientists and contributors to the food industry, not only here but throughout Europe and the world. The academic excellence of those faculties offers a significant advantage for Cork as a location for the headquarters.

The suggestion that the costs of decentralising the headquarters from Dublin would be too high does not hold water. The Department of Education was decentralised to Athlone, the Department of Social Welfare to Sligo, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to Cavan and Portlaoise and the Department of the Environment to Mayo. If the Government does not lead by example in terms of decentralisation, how can we expect economic policy to counter the enormous disadvantages suffered by the regions compared with Dublin in attracting industrial investment and generating jobs?

The location of the headquarters is a question of logic and for the reasons I have outlined the Government should seriously reconsider its decision not to locate the headquarters in Cork. It is regrettable that the Minister and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry have missed the opportunity to serve the agricultural industry and encourage its potential for employment and export earnings.

I welcome the opportunity of contributing to this debate and, in particular, I welcome the Minister's comments concerning a greater degree of unity in the activities of State agencies.

In other member states of the European Union single agencies have been successful in food promotion and market development. It is fitting we should adopt the unified approach called for by the Minister in this area. I hope the new agency will draw up a plan in this regard which will be kept under review by the Minister, the Minister of State and the Department of Agriculture. With the exception of the work done by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, An Bord Bia will be responsible for the promotion and market development of our food and drink products.

Section 7 includes beverages under the description of food. It also includes livestock. The promotion of livestock is a relatively minor activity of CBF. There seems to be a campaign against live cattle export and it is regrettable that campaign has been so strong in recent times. Many farmers and producers have been enthusiastic about opening up the live cattle export market. Much time and effort has been spent by Ministers and Department officials to win back the live trade. We have important markets in Iran, Egypt and the Middle East. Our products have been successful in those markets because of their high quality and the disease free status of our herd. It appears that much of the good work of Departments and Ministers has been jeopardised by the campaign against live cattle exports. There is a world market for our products and we should avail of it. We realise the cushion of intervention is fast disappearing and our farming community is anxious to serve the world market.

I have argued there should be a balance between live trade and factory trade and I hope the Minister and the Minister of State will continue to ensure such a balance is struck. Reports of cruelty in the export of livestock should be investigated. Unemployment and lay offs in both market areas have been mentioned. Measures should be put in place to ensure necessary standards so that agricultural employment is maintained.

The Minister's achievement in the allocation of the additional milk quota for small scale producers was remarkable. I understand he secured 6 million gallons under the scheme. The extra allocation of 1.1 million gallons to the west, north and north east has been welcomed by farmers in those areas. The scheme is designed to assist farmers in the west and north serving co-operatives in those areas. However, farmers in the south Galway area who supply a co-operative in the south do not qualify for the increased milk quota. In a press statement on 16 March the Minister said the additional quota would help to offset losses of quota which Connacht-Ulster has suffered in the past and will strengthen the structure of the industry both at farmer and processor level. South Galway is in the Connacht-Ulster area. The same assistance should be provided to farmers in south Galway as is provided to others. South Galway farmers supply Nenagh co-operative, but because of the anomaly they do not qualify for the increased quota.

I do not agree with Deputy Upton's comment that political lobbying on behalf of farmers is a declining force. However, I agree with his comment that he does not see a conflict between the concerns of farmers and consumer. Senator Feargal Quinn made that point also. Farmers must produce what the consumers want. If not, such products will be imported. I hope this area will be researched and developed. We have good quality food and our high standards should be maintained.

In the past scares have been raised about the quality of our food. I recall scares some years ago about the quality of our milk which caused shopkeepers to display signs that the milk for sale was free of hormones. Similar scares have been raised about our meat products recently. I commend the Minister for his decisive action on the matter of beef exports to Germany. The German market is an important one. It was not merely a question of the German authorities imposing a ban on our beef exports; it involved a link between Irish beef and consumers' health. That matter has been handled in an appropriate way by the Minister and the Department. We must ensure the quality of our beef if our export markets are to be maintained.

I welcome the crackdown on the use of angel dust. The Minister of State, Deputy O'Shea, who introduced the animal remedies Bill, provided increased penalties for those who use illegal substances. We should continue on that positive road. I hope An Bord Bia continues the good work which has been done in the past. It would be disastrous if consumers around the world perceived Irish food produce to be of inferior status. The recent GATT Round will open up world trade even more. The Government has played a key role in reforming the GATT and the Common Agricultural Policy. There was a reference recently in theIrish Farmers Journal to the possibility of major trade opportunities between Israel and this country with the prospect of a lasting peace in that country. Recently a major food week was held in Jerusalem and, again, this is another area which should be examined. The same is true of South Africa, now that the elections have taken place. It is an area where there could be major possibilities for trade in the future.

I also welcome the £230 million package for the agri-environmental programme which gives farmers the opportunity to consult and co-operate with people who care about the environment. It provides for grants linked to conservation and protecting the landscape, wildlife habitats and endangered species of flora and fauna. Recently the United Farmers' Association spoke about the need for a marketing strategy for branded products organically produced. This welcome development deserves support.

There are exciting possibilities in the area of food production. The first Leader programme was very successful and I hope that east Galway, an area I represent, will be very much involved in the second. Last Friday at a rural development day in Athenry, County Galway, opened by our Euro Commissioner, Mr. Padraig Flynn, I saw a display of products. The Leader project has been particularly helpful in areas that produce home made butters, cheeses, etc., and has been the means of increasing the number of jobs in the west. I hope the second Leader programme will be equally successful and enable us to expand into the alternative enterprises about which the Minister has spoken so often.

One of my concerns about the second Leader programme relates to health regulations which have been the subject of controversy in the west. I understand the Minister for Health has taken that up. Another concern relates to the planning regulations and sections of the Casual Trading Bill. Many products are sold at markets and the local authority now has a major say in regard to the planning regulations and the allocation of trading licences. I hope these matters will be resolved before the second programme is established.

The role of the co-operative movement is most important. It is the focus of many of the Leader groups which I hope will be a success in the western region where Mid Western Co-op is the umbrella group.

I welcome this Bill. It sets up a single agency and provides the unity for which the Department is looking in market development. I hope it will be a success and continue to improve the image of Irish food.

I also welcome the introduction of the Bill. Setting up An Bord Bia brings us into line with other member states, many of which have a single agency dealing with export marketing. A single food promotion agency will, with proper co-ordination, be able to maximise the available resources and embrace all sectors of the food industry. We have some of the best primary producers in Europe of pigs and dairy products, poultry and meat. We have the product and it is up to us to sell it at the best possible price. It is comparatively easy to produce but the crunch comes in promotion and sales where, in the last few years, there have been great improvements, especially by individual firms and the co-operatives. Not alone have they invested heavily in product development, they have succeeded in selling their product in a very competitive export market. There has been a marked improvement in product presentation and we are now out in the market place meeting and competing with the best. CBF has been effective in the export market, it will now be brought under the umbrella of An Bord Bia and will make a substantial contribution to the new board, particularly in the initial stages.

The Bill also provides for setting up subsidiary boards for the product sectors with specific provision for a subsidiary board for meat and livestock. The cattle sector is the most highly subsidised but it does not give returns, either financially or by way of jobs, commensurate with the investment by both national government and the European Union. Other speakers referred to the live shipping of cattle which plays havoc with jobs at processing and slaughtering plants. A few years ago we hoped that all beef would be exported in a processed form. However, live shipping came back into its own with the variation in prices, and a competitive edge is required to ensure the best price for the primary producer. The principal of a large publicily quoted firm suggested that that firm may withdraw from beef processing. I hope that is not so because we need firms with the capacity, personnel and know-how to sell on the export markets.

I hope also that greater efforts will be made in the area of pig production. Until the 1960s pig production was the mainstay of small holdings in many counties, especially Cavan and Monaghan. At that time about half the farms were involved, one way or another, in pig breeding. In 1960 we had 111,000 nationally but this dropped dramatically to 2,000 in 1993. The average herd increased from eight in 1960 to 400 in 1993, but 80 per cent of pig production is confined to about 200 holdings.

The reduction in pig production was a body blow to the small family farm, but they had to move with the times. The National Pig Plan, set up to examine markets, came up with the idea of setting up eight efficient plants, with an investment of £90 million. As a result, the pig industry is internationally competitive, producing good quality breeding stock in highly modernised plants. However, problems remain, with feed costs up to £20 a tonne. Since feed costs represent 70 per cent of all production costs it is imperative that a great effort is made to reduce them. The Department should deliver on the 15 per cent reduction, as promised, in CAP reform. An Forbairt who succeeded the IDA, projected that pig production would increase to 4 million by the year 1997. This is well within our capacity considering that production increased from 2.1 million in 1989 to 3 million in 1993. If the figure of 4 million is reached it will represent exports of 125,000 tonnes which would ensure substantial additional jobs. Unlike the beef industry, there are no live exports of pigs.

Another area that has been targeted, and in which I hope An Bord Bia will become involved, is poultry production. World trade in poultry is rapidly growing. There was an increase in broiler production from about 3 million in 1960 to 45 million in 1992, and the figure continues to rise. However, there is a feed cost differential in this area which presents great difficulties. An Forbairt projected poultry exports of 50 million by 1998, maintaining 80 per cent of the home market. Problems arose in the area with substantial imports of poultry meat in recent years. However, the present demand is being met and I hope that continues.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, with availability of intervention, co-operatives and meat plants took the easy option and filled their cold stores on land and on ships at sea with products which should have been sold in the marketplace. Those massive stocks caused serious problems in recent years. On many occasions in this House I made the point that proper recognition was not given to processors who marketed their product. One of those who did market their product was a much maligned beef processor who sold the product abroad.

It is important that An Bord Bia concentrate on marketing. In County Monaghan there are 1,700 people employed in the food industry, including mushroom growing. This area was completely disregarded when placing industries over the years. If local people had not taken the initiative, it would be a barren wasteland industrially. Thankfully, that area, with 2 per cent of the land and 1.5 per cent of the population, now produces 5 to 6 per cent of food exports. This shows what can be done with initiative and enterprise.

I welcome the Culliton report, particularly the recommendations on a change of emphasis regarding our embassies. The report states that the staff should not be confined to career civil servants but that there would be people with professional knowledge in business and trade production. This is a welcome development which is in line with calls made in this House over the years to make use of our embassies other than for diplomatic purposes. They should be utilised to the greatest extent possible to ensure high sales of our produce.

The Minister stated that An Bord Glas would be involved with An Bord Bia. I hope An Bord Glas follows the line taken in other countries to promote potatoes and potato products. In countries such as America substantial funds are spent on promoting potatoes as a quality food. Prince Edward Island in Canada, to which many people emigrated at the time of the Famine, is one of the foremost potato exporters. I was involved in the potato trade for many years and I am satisfied that there is a potential for job creation in that area. The Minister should concentrate on increasing exports of potatoes.

The continued high imports of ware potatoes is a matter of concern. In the past much money was spent on the provision of storage, with the assistance of substantial grants. I believe that was money well spent. About 27 years ago, as a guest of the British Potato Marketing Board, I visited farms and packing centres in Scotland where large sums of money were spent on air controlled storage. Such storage facilities are now available here. I am not satisfied that we have an official record of ware potato imports. A substantial tonnage of potatoes is being legally imported into Northern Ireland and distributed throughout the country. There is probably a greater tonnage than has been recorded here. As an island country, we have never exploited our advantage as a seed potato producer and in projecting new varieties. This is labour-intensive industry and, with our continuing unemployment figures, it is an area which should be targeted.

A previous speaker referred to the Leader Programmes but I believe that the county enterprise boards, as they are constituted — and I am a member of one — should concentrate on the food area. Opportunities exist, even on a small scale, in the area of prepared foods. If one walks through any supermarket one can see the large amount of imported prepared foods on sale. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, in conjunction with the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, should impress upon the enterprise boards the need to target the food area. The same would apply to the Leader programmes because they, in conjunction with the enterprise boards and Forbairt, should examine every area in the industry where jobs can be created. If that is done many more jobs might be created.

Milk and milk products are among our primary exports and the co-operatives must be complimented on their move into the area of yoghurt production, etc. Many of the co-operatives are qualified to compete on the export market but a continual concern of people such as myself representing Connacht-Ulster is the siphoning off of quotas by the large co-operatives. Thankfully, the quotas will now remain in the region.

Prior to entering politics I was involved with the co-operatives and they were always dependent on increasing their output. Production has now levelled off and they are unable to get any additional quotas. The ordinary co-operatives have been of great benefit to many small farmers because they provided a lifeline for them through the use of credit given on an extended basis against their milk or produce. The co-operatives have greatly assisted those farmers and for that reason I would like to see them continue.

I wish to refer to the REPS, the rural environmental programme. In my area where there is much intensification we are experiencing many problems in regard to the disposal of farm waste. Farmers will be at a serious disadvantage in regard to availing of the funding, which I believe is approximately £100 million, to deal with these problems. In regard to pollution control, I hope the Minister will ensure that substantial grants will be made available to farmers for the provision of storage tanks because it has been provided this year that additional tanks are necessary. This will be a real problem in years to come and I hope the Department responsible for pollution control will provide the necessary funding to deal with the problems caused by pollution.

I find nothing wrong with the principle of the Bill before the House. However, on reading the Minister's Second Stage speech, and taking account of the great furore over the announcement of the establishment of An Bord Bia, I believe in practice the board will not turn out to be what the planners, the farmers' groups, the producers and the processors would have wanted. I am sorry to say that because I fully understand the Government's intention. I do wish to be overly negative; parts of this Bill will work to our advantage but it contains some major flaws.

Since we joined the Common Market in the early 1970s we have shown that we have a wonderful capability for the production of good quality food but one of our main problems is that we have never been particularly adept at marketing our products. I am not referring to the agricultural community only. This may be due to the fact that unlike many of our competitors, we do not have a second or third language to use when selling food around the world.

The Minister is well aware that there are many components to the whole food chain, from the day that a product is first researched in an institute until it is sold on a supermarket shelf to a German or a Dutch housewife. Many people are involved in that process but, apart from a number of high profile companies, we have not been to the fore in that area. Those companies sold their own products, which I realise can cause some difficulties. There were occasions over the years when Irish companies were actually competing with each other to the detriment of those companies and of the primary producers, particularly of meat.

If one were to examine the Bill superficially, one might say that there was a great need for An Bord Bia to co-ordinate all the various organisations but I do not believe the impact of the board will be great. Unless the exporting companies can sell, through their own resources, on the foreign markets, there is not much more a promotional body can do.

Before I entered politics I was involved in the livestock business at mart level. CBF is a body for which I have great admiration. It is consumer driven but it never lost sight of the reason for its existence. It maintained the loyalty of the primary producers while getting a product the consumer wanted. CBF appeared to be on the side of the farmers and it was rarely criticised by them.

There are too many sectional interests — everyone has a little flag to fly. I thought An Bord Bia would put all the little flags together and fly one big one but I do not think that will happen. Hopefully, in five years time the various groups involved in food production will say An Bord Bia was good for them and for the country.

We have good quality food but we must protect our image. If we cannot eliminate mad cow disease and the use of angel dust, people will not eat red meat and that will wreck our future. It is one thing to put a law on the Statute Book but quite another to enforce it. The Minister does not have sufficient staff to enforce the law. The will is there but resources are lacking. It is typical of Governments to have grandiose schemes but not to provide the necessary backup to implement them.

I do not understand what kind of power subsidy boards will have or how they will be organised. They will be glorified tidy towns committees or chambers of commerce; they will say a lot but have no power. The main board will decide on the imposition of levies. Animal levies will be imposed. There is nothing wrong with the agricultural community establishing a fund to help sell their product on the export market but I do not wish to see money taken from a group the majority of whom are not doing well. But for headage payments many farmers would not make a decent living. Levies should not be extracted from them to keep others in cushy jobs. If CBF is removed from the pivotal role they play, primary producers will not be happy. If An Bord Bia loses their confidence it will have lost a great plank.

An Bord Bainne has been extremely successful and I compliment it. However, some dairies prefer to go it alone. This involves risk taking. Dealing in the meat trade is worse than the Stock Exchange because one never knows where one is with that business. People in cushy jobs give a return for their money but do not go beyond that. Some companies and groups are prepared to take a risk. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not, and I hope An Bord Bia will adopt a determined and energetic approach. However, it will be useless unless it maintains the trust of constituent bodies.

I understand An Bord Bia will decide on the levies. Members will be appointed to the board for a variety of reasons and I have no doubt but that their record will entitle them to serve on it. However, their interest might be at variance with what certain sections might want. We must not forget the primary producer. They take risks and if things go wrong we will have 10,000 fewer farmers on the land.

I am not sure about the proposed level of involvement in research and development by An Bord Bia. I am very impressed with the research being carried out by Teagasc at its centre in Dunsinea which I have visited on a number of occasions in recent years. Many companies have paid for research to be carried out on their behalf at this centre. While I welcome the involvement of Teagasc in such research, in a country with approximately three million consumers, research and development in major products will always be a problem. What involvement will An Bord Bia have in research and development?

Most farmers who have studied this Bill believe there will be more levies and less funding from the Exchequer, all in the development of more progressive farming, processing and exporting. I hope the Minister will be able to achieve a balance in this area. The people on the board of CBF would not have gone too far in this direction, and many farmers are very worried about these progressive developments.

I am not an expert on the fishing industry but I do not understand why the fishing industry has not been included in this Bill. How could CBF be included but not An Bord Iascaigh Mhara? Did the Minister decide to opt for an easier target? Even though they will play their part, some people in CBF will be worried about many of the proposals in the Bill.

Many people, including some Deputies, are concerned about the need to strike a balance between the number of live cattle we export and our exports of meat and meat products. It is very important that there is competition on the ground, so to speak, for cattle and sheep. We want to create jobs — the more we can create the better — but there is little point in creating an additional 500 to 600 jobs in the meat industry if it leads to a reduction in the number of farmers by 5,000 to 6,000. The Minister and his Minister of State have sounded warnings that if they get a chance they will put a stop to the export of live cattle and sheep. If they do this, it will be to their peril. I accept the need to strike a balance, but there should be competition at marts and between factories; competition is the life of industry. There are many other things which could and should be done to ensure that more cattle are available for export.

The Government has continually referred to the importance of GATT and the CAP. The consequences of these agreements are now coming home to roost because of faulty negotiations, it is likely that we will not have any more cattle to export and we will no longer be able to export to many markets. We need to strike a balance in this area too and it will be to the peril of the Minister and his Minister of State if they put a stop to the export of live cattle and sheep.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Liam Lawlor.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

It is evident from the Minister's speech that the food sector, which accounts for approximately 22 per cent of total exports, is one of the most important sectors of the economy. Twenty per cent of manufacturing jobs depend on this sector which also makes a significant contribution to reducing our balance of payments. The output from this sector is approximately £7.6 billion, a staggering figure. It must also be remembered that the indigenous raw material for this sector is very attractive to other countries which do not enjoy similar conditions. We produce a quality food in a natural environment.

This puts in context the large potential for job creation in the food sector. As an urban Deputy I am particularly interested in this aspect of the food sector, including manufacturing, transport, advertising and delivery. I will refer later to processing, packaging and marketing but will concentrate for the moment on the transport element. The transport of food from its place of manufacture to its place of sale, including its display and marketing, account for numerous jobs. The potential for job creation in this sector is under-estimated. Due to the efforts of various organisations to promote our products abroad and present them in an attractive manner, we have a fantastic reputation abroad for quality produce. In this context, the home market, which sells many foreign products, is under-explored. People should be made more aware of the fact that if they purchase Irish produce they will help create more employment.

The Minister stated that the board would consider such elements as capital investment, research and development, marketing, marketing promotion and human resources. Further consideration should be given to increasing the level of awareness among consumers of the manufacturing process. There is a substantial gap between producers and consumers when one considers the amount of handling and production that takes place in manufacturing. For example, it leads to a lack of perception that a product produced on the farm eventually arrives on the shelves of a supermarket at home or abroad having been promoted at some prestigious event, leading to a total lack of recognition on the part of its producer. Some way must be devised of having a closer connection between the elements of production and manufacture which would also ensure that all of our resources are used to best advantage.

I note that fish will be included in the provisions of this Bill. We are all aware of the importance of the fishing industry nationwide and its lack of development when one considers the size around our coastline, the large fishing stocks available to us, and the recent pattern of eating fish on days other than Friday.

And the herring.

I remember having been wakened on Friday mornings as a child by the sound of people selling fresh herrings wrapped in newspaper. We have come a long way from those small vans whose owners endeavoured to sell herrings while they were fresh since, the further the distance from the coast, the less attractive was the flavour of the herring. There are many resources now available to us to ensure that a product is presented in an acceptable form to consumers at home and abroad. In this respect I am fascinated to observe people's ingenuity in presenting perishable commodities in such an attractive manner.

Another Member mentioned the county enterprise boards and their role in the development of our food industry. It is to be hoped that An Bord Bia will work closely with them. Aer Lingus and other international airlines' transport networks should be borne in mind in the further development and exportation of our food products. If we can resort to An Bord Bia to develop products suitable for consumption at home and abroad, to be transported within the various European Union networks, that would be a most useful exercise in the promotion of our foodstuffs.

My only involvement in this area in the past — the one about which I know most — was with the artistic aspects of advertising and marketing of goods. It is now acknowledged that successful marketing is the key factor in the promotion and presentation of foodstuffs and other commodities, quality packaging being particularly important. We must ensure that the greatest amount of finance, time and effort, is devoted to media advertising at home and abroad. Henceforth we shall have an agency that will police presentation of products both within and without this jurisdiction, ensuring that prime space is devoted to the display of Irish goods so that producers, manufacturers and processors will benefit. We have come a long way from the design packaging problems experienced in the sixties when I was involved in alternative packaging in manufacturing we had to engage designers from Scandinavian countries to advise us; that was when I occupied the College of Art adjacent to this House.

We have also moved a considerable distance from the first Kilkenny Shop enterprise when we were shown what could be done in that area. I remember somebody requesting that the Friendly match box be redesigned but we were told that was not possible. They were right; it was never redesigned. Some things must retain their initial marketing impetus. An Bord Bia should collate all the good will and expertise available to ensure that our food industry is afforded the opportunities for development it so richly deserves.

While welcoming the Bill, I have some reservations about its provisions. In the past 20 years the fragmentation of marketing of Irish food products has been a major impediment to the maximisation of their price in the marketplace. The type ofad hoc progress made, rationalising parts of the industry, omitting fish, dairying having nothing to do with the provisions of the Bill, while talking about Irish food appears to me to be a totally unnecessary fragmentation due mainly to the pulling forces within the industry.

Deputy Connaughton was correct to say that in the media every other evening the live export question arises. We were supposed to have gone through that matter some years ago, having advanced the meat processing sector, live trade appearing to be no longer a viable option, yet it appears to be re-emerging as a threat to the beef sector. I never can grasp farmer politics, the fact that farming organisation leaders and farmers themselves accept the levies and costs being imposed on the back of the primary producer. In addition, the inter-relationship between the private beef processing sector and CBF over many years was less than cohesive or sufficiently organised for the betterment of the primary producer and the beef processing sector. We appear to repeat these cycles but, unfortunately, do not appear to learn much from them.

If I revert to my first contact with the beef processing industry, then in the hands of a number of private producers, Irish Meat Packers, the farming community, through Cork Marts, contended that the way forward was through control of the beef processing sector, all subscriptions being paid, the business taken over and a new plant built at Midleton. The same happened in the case of Clover Meats who launched into the added-value area, when everything seemed to be progressing satisfactorily, but, alas, so many years later they have all folded up, leaving farmers owed considerable sums, and the cycle begins all over again.

We hear that at present one of our major plc co-operatives, the Kerry Group, is talking about leaving the meat processing sector because it is not commercially viable, that they could better invest their resources elsewhere. Indeed their shareholders, probably now institutional investors rather than the farmers, recognise that this competent food processing group no longer perceive it viable or profitable to remain in such an important industry. They had been deeply involved with the farming community in the south-west, yet they contend that a major facility for beef producers of that greater Munster region will no longer be available to them.

It would appear to be a very complex industry that makes or loses small fortunes over different cycles. Something I have never understood is why, at departmental and CBF level, there has always been this chasm between processors and operators. Further down the line in the processing sector there is a multiplicity of small added-value operators who do not have the power to penetrate the market, and put a label on Irish beef so that it can be sold as a prime product. That leads one to consider the nonsense of the lack of ability to rationalise international markets for Irish food. In that respect, politicians, industrialists and farmers all share the blame.

The absolute nonsense of the dairying sector, the cornerstone of the food business, is highlighted by the fact that some of the biggest producers representing farmers are taken to the High Court to be displaced from the board of An Bord Bainne, they having manipulated marketing information in order to market the same product in a different plastic container. For example, in the dairy processing sector one need only look at the fragmentation of the Irish product available to a German supermarket buyer. He can get Dairygold, Golden Vale, Avonmore and a multiplicity of companies all trying to sell an Irish product, with different brands, different plastic containers and a different set of overheads. There would also be different marketing personnel all working on the farmer's gallon of milk in the dairy processing sector. I see this Bill as scratching the surface of what is needed if we are to become a food producer with international muscle. Total sales of large French combines, of the Swiss Nestlé and US meat processors are virtually the exports of this country. For those reasons I am concerned that in the 1990s we are still not getting an international cohesive marketing image to get Irish products into the primary price bracket. In the beef sector there will always be commodity sales to the Middle East and to State run countries who want to bulk buy and do not want the added-value supermarket shelf.

Unfortunately, our major problem in the food processing sector is the competition we create internationally among ourselves. Near disasters, difficulties with processors and rescue packages, removal of support by Government and the need for the exhaust valve of the live exports etc., go in cycles because ofad hoc and unplanned marketing.

At any of the international food fairs such as Anuga or Sial there will be Irish stands and international competition. BIM will be at one corner and Bord Bainne may not wish to participate in the Irish stand but to do their own promotion. There is a lack of cohesion, where one is trying to sell into a market of 300 million people in mainland Europe and the UK, by processors who are small in the international area but big at home. The IDA attempted to get Waterford and Avonmore together but they did not pool their resources for the betterment of the producers and the marketing operation because of the empire building of the various organisations in the food processing sector.

Unfortunately, the political decisiveness from Agriculture House in trying to bring the farming community, processors and the various participants in the food processing sector together did not reach its full potential over the past 20 years. This is our natural resource, the product that brings in the Deutsche Marks, the francs and other foreign currencies and creates the value added jobs. Unfortunately, we have not been able to lead the industry to where international supermarket groups have a brand for Irish products. They do not have a quality brand stamped on Irish beef today. Twenty years after we talked about being the bread basket of Europe, the green country, the environmentally friendly producer, we should get maximum product. Is it not still the case that some Irish beef in the UK market is being labelled Scottish and selling at a higher price because of their marketing techniques?

The role of CBF has been undermined by the industry during the past 20 years and I do not expect that to change dramatically. The Culliton report should be fully implemented and the food sector put together by a market led organisation as an umbrella body over the industries comprising it. BIM should have been included as part of food exports. What is the need for fragmentation? Bord Glas is now included. Products should be branded and the maximum price paid to the producer. Much of what exists today is a burden and a cost on the primary producer. If only Bord Bainne embraced the entire dairy sector, bringing every gallon of milk into the Kerrygold brand, we would have a very powerful Bord Bainne. Instead we have a multiplicity of small food empires in an Irish context and minor league players in an international context. Unfortunately our industry is fragmented and I do not see how this Bill can improve it.

I welcome this Bill and compliment the Minister on the establishment of An Bord Bia. The Irish food industry is fundamental to our economy, accounting for 22 per cent of our exports and 20 per cent of manufacturing employment. The need to promote Irish food has been well recognised and documented by the expert group, who examined the food industry, and by Culliton. It is even more important now as a result of some of the changes in the European and world markets because of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the changes as a result of the GATT agreement and our membership of the Single Market.

There has never been a greater opportunity for the development of the food industry. I am aware of this in my own constituency where many of the food manufacturing and processing plants are expanding and bringing in new workers as a result of an increased demand. They are added value in so far as the food is prepared and ready for the table. The target of 1,500 to 2,000 jobs per annum is realistic as outlined in the export report. The IDA has set ambitious and realistic targets for job creation in the future. The food industry has great potential, we recognise that we produce some of the finest food in the world, particularly in the beef and dairy sectors.

Sections 7 and 8 set out the functions of the board. The new board will take over the functions of CBF and some of the functions of Bord Tráchtála and Bord Glas. Following the establishment of this board there will be a need for co-operation and co-ordination between the various bodies. I sympathise with the views of my colleague, Deputy Lawlor. It would be an ideal world if the food industry and everything related to it was under the aegis of one Minister. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the system, that is not possible in any country because many Departments of State have an input to the development and promotion of the same industry. However, co-ordination and co-operation between Departments and the various State agencies is important. The IDA is doing extremely good work. I have been very impressed by its commitment to and establishment of new industries in that sector creating many jobs. It has a very professional approach. What working arrangement will be between the IDA food sector and An Bord Bia? What working relationship will it have with bodies such as BIM charged with promoting the food sector — if the responsibility for the promotion and marketing of fish is transferred — and An Bord Bainne?

There is a need for flexibility. If the Minister finds that it would be beneficial to make changes in relation to promotion and marketing of food products he should not have to return to the House with further legislation which may result in delays. Emphasis must be placed on the need to create new jobs and maintain existing jobs. As long as it would be in keeping with the principles of the Bill the Minister should have discretion to transfer functions from existing boards to An Bord Bia andvice versa.

The expert group dealt with the question of seasonality of production in its report. This is an important issue and needs to be addressed. We must focus on the need to create new jobs and maintain existing jobs. I dealt with this issue on a number of occasions in the House. There is insufficient co-operation at all levels between State Departments and agencies. In relation to the local authorities, there is a need to adopt a sense of urgency in processing planning applications which involve job creation. I am not suggesting we should not adhere strictly to the law; we should but there must be a greater sense of urgency. This does not apply only to agencies which deal with the food sector; there is a need for co-operation between all the Departments which have a role to play. For example, the Department of the Environment has a role in developing our infrastructure. There is no point in having an effective and efficient Bord Bia if we do not have the capacity to produce the goods for which it will find a market.

When An Bord Bia is established there will be a need to provide back-up services for producers. I referred previously in the House to a case where a food industry received an order for 20 tonnes of beefburgers from outside the European Union but due to a lack of urgency in implementing a European Union decision, on the question of whether officials of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry or the Revenue Commissioners should inspect meat, the order was lost to a company in Belgium. There is a need for a rapid response to ensure that processors who find markets for their produce will receive the maximum support of the State in resolving difficulties such as this.

The quality and nutrition value of food is of great importance to the consumer who very often will make decisions on health grounds. The food advisory committee, under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Department of Health, will, therefore, have an important role. What will the working relationship be between the food advisory committee and the new Bord Bia? We must satisfy the consumer who is influenced by health considerations. For example, in the ongoing debate on the question of butter versus margarine it can be confusing when experts take up both sides of the argument. There is a necessity for An Bord Bia to have access to the best information available. I have no doubt that it will do a good job in promoting our food abroad and in creating the right image. As more countries become aware that the food we produce is of high quality there will be increased demand for our produce.

I am glad that funding will be available for research and development. There is a need to carry out research to discover what the consumer wants and how he likes to see food presented. This is becoming more important and has an influence on the way all goods, particularly food products, are marketed.

The Minister for Enterprise and Employment and the Minister for Tourism and Trade will each appoint a nominee to the board of the new Bord Bia and the Minister will appoint the remainder. I am sure he will select them with great care. He should take his time and choose those with knowledge, expertise and ability. It is essential that the board promotes our products abroad to the maximum advantage. We should also like to see new jobs being created as there is now a great opportunity to develop the food sector.

On the question of where the headquarters of An Bord Bia should be located, Deputy Creed made a good case on behalf of Cork. While one does not want to be parochial on a national issue, there is no harm in highlighting the contribution that my own constituency, Monaghan in particular, has made to the food sector. There is intensive production of poultry, pigs and mushrooms. A high percentage of the population of County Monaghan, which stands at 50,000, is involved in food processing. This is the largest industry in the county and it has made a valuable contribution to the national economy.

As spokesperson for trade I am delighted to have an opportunity to contribute to this debate. There is no doubt that food represents our greatest opportunity to increase exports and create jobs. However, as stated by many speakers, we have not performed to our full potential in that regard. I hope this initiative by the Minister will ensure that there will be a more co-ordinated and focused marketing approach to our food products. GATT presents many opportunities for Irish exporters, but we will be subjected to much more competition from Third World countries as a result. We will have to fight for a share of the market. Penetration of European markets by our food produce has not been good, one of the reasons being the attractiveness of intervention. We opted for the soft option rather than creating market niches for ourselves on the Continent and in Britain, although we export more then 30 per cent of our indigenous produce and most of our agricultural produce to Britain.

I recall having a discussion in the mid-1980s with Denis Brosnan, chief executive of Kerry Co-op — before it diversified from dairy products — and he told me that there were markets in Europe for the taking by Irish exporters, but we did not avail of them because of the attractiveness of intervention. For a very small gain we took the soft option and as a result we lost a number of European markets. It will be difficult to increase penetration in continental markets because some of the shelf space we should have in Europe has been taken by our competitors.

The weakness of sterling will pose major difficulties for Irish food exports to Britain. An article in today'sIrish Independent indicates that if the present trend continues and sterling remains weak against the pound our food exports will be placed in a very uncompetitive position and we could once again lose our market share, with resultant job losses. The Government should be vigilant regarding exchange rates. In conjunction with the Central Bank, it should introduce contingency plans to avoid a recurrence of what happened in 1992. I appeal to the Minister and his officials to monitor the position carefully. Apart from the agricultural sector, I have received reports that some of our other exports are under threat because of currency fluctuations. The sooner we have a single currency in Europe the less exposed our exports will be to the effects of currency fluctuations. I tabled a question in this regard to the Minister for Tourism and Trade who gave me the impression that the Government was not very concerned about campaigning for a single currency in the immediate future. That is regrettable. The sooner we use the ecu for trading arrangements in Europe the better it will be for our food and other industries.

A number of speakers referred to the large number of Irish operators who are going on a solo run around Europe to sell Irish products. That leads to much duplication and misuse of scarce resources in terms of marketing input. It takes from the focus on the drive to sell Irish products abroad. I hope that as a result of this Bill there will be more focus on the sale of Irish products. A commitment was given by the Minister for Tourism and Trade that we would adopt a one-stop-shop approach to selling Irish products abroad, that we should sell Ireland as a total unit. We should tie together the activities of An Bord Tráchtála, Bord Fáilte and the IDA and sell Ireland abroad as a unit rather than in the fragmented way we do at present.

There is still great potential for the export of our produce to Britain. It is our closest market and has a consumer population of 55 million people. While there was growth in our exports to Germany last year, there are still endless opportunities for us to penetrate that market. There are also great opportunities for the export of our produce to the Far East and Pacific Rim countries. I look forward to making a further contribution tomorrow.

Debate adjourned.