Written Answers. - Pigmeat Sector.

Ivan Yates

Question:

309 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will suspend the current levy on pigs slaughtered as a method of temporarily supporting incomes; the proposals, if any, he has to discuss with pigmeat processors a transparent method of segregating the VAT rebate structure in order that producers do not take the benefits of the rebate and instead pass it onto producers; the proposals, if any, he has to deal with the income crisis in the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1230/99]

I have taken a number of important initiatives to deal with the current difficulties in the pigmeat sector. On four occasions last year I secured increased export refunds from the EU Commission, the most recent being in November. These increases have been of considerable help to exporters.

In September I succeeded in gaining agreement from the Commission for the introduction of an aids to private storage scheme, under which EU funding is provided for the storage of pigmeat for a maximum period of six months. The scheme is still running and to date about 177,000 tonnes of pigmeat have been temporarily removed from the market throughout the Community. Ireland has over 800 tonnes of pigmeat in storage under this scheme.

The EU food aid package for Russia will include 100,000 tonnes of pigmeat bought on the EU market. This will have a positive effect given the current oversupply.
At a Council meeting held last week, I along with many of my ministerial colleagues in the other member states successfully requested the EU Commission to hold a special working group as soon as possible to discuss positive actions to address the current weakness in the market. This meeting will take place on 10 February.
The matters related to VAT for pig farmers are within the remit of my colleague the Minister for Finance.