I thank the witnesses for attending the committee.
I thank the IGFA for its substantial briefing in which it outlined the challenges faced by Connolly's Red Mills in real and stark terms.
In that regard, is the IGFA content that the supports that will be required by the agricultural sector, particularly in the event of a no-deal Brexit, are in place or can be put in place for that scenario?
I want to touch on the question that Senator Paul Daly mentioned, namely, the level of imports in the sector. I understood and everybody appreciated that there was a need for a large level of importation of feed material and additive requirements. However, 50% does not compare well with the 30% that Irish farmer's counterparts in France and Germany require and the 40% that UK farmers import. Does the IGFA have a view on whether it would be prudent for us to adopt a strategy of increasing the level of production in this country to try to mitigate some of those challenges?
The IGFA makes a number of sensible recommendations, especially about the need for a singular Government point of contact. It has been said that the Department's material, technical, bilateral and trilateral meetings have publicly available agendas, minutes and sector-specific briefings. Will the witnesses from IGFA outline the specific importance and benefits of these?
Bord Bia's opening statement refers to European-specific research that was launched in October, looking at British exports to the European market should it become a third country. That would seem like a sensible approach. My immediate question is why was it only in October of this year that this research was launched? That should have been done a long time ago as part of preparations.
The importance of labelling and all that comes with that will be crucial in the post-Brexit scenario. Will Bord Bia give us an update on the protected geographical indication, PGI, statuses? I have been speaking to a number of people in Europe who I know would have an interest in this. In terms of PGIs bringing added value, the narrower the scope the more value they bring to those who fall within them. A balance always has to be struck, however, because clearly everybody would want to be part of them, but that would bring no additional benefit. Is Bord Bia confident that the balance is right in the PGI statuses that are being proposed? Will the farmers who fall within it in terms of their product see a return in terms of a price increase? Outside of that, a PGI will mean nothing to them, except additional bureaucracy perhaps. Is Bord Bia confident that the balance is right?
We have just gone through four years in Europe of setting out the importance of the all-Ireland agriculture market. We managed to insert that in the heart of the Brexit negotiations and we were able to protect ourselves because of that. Yet it appears to me that the obstacles to the PGI status being all-Ireland are technical. I have gone through some of the revisions that have been set out and it appears that the internal IT system, the internal audit and the issues around the companies that operate as nominating agents are technical issues. Will there be a drive to address those as speedily as possible so that we do not have a situation in which, after all the issues we have raised and the capital we have expended in setting out the importance of having an all-Ireland sector, the first thing we would do is submit a PGI status that eliminates the all-Ireland element?
Bord Bia referenced horticultural companies as being focused on their existing markets. That is true, but having dealt with a number of people in that sector, they are also particularly concerned about the availability of peat products. Has Bord Bia been engaging with those companies and with the Government, or both, to try to resolve the challenges those companies have, considering that Brexit will clearly be an additional burden for them to face?