I welcome to the meeting Mr. John Neenan, chairman of Growing Media Ireland; Mr. Paul Brophy, chairman of the IFA national horticulture committee; Mr. Patrick Gleeson and Mr. Kieran Dunne of Kildare Growers Group; and Mr. Mel O'Rourke and Mr. Frank Corbally of the CMP. All are appearing remotely and are very welcome to the meeting. We have already received their opening statements and they have been circulated to members. We are limited in our time due to Covid-19 safety restrictions so the committee has agreed that those statements be taken as read, allowing the full session to be used for questions and answers.
Before we begin, I must outline an important note on parliamentary privilege. Witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the joint committee. However, if they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Participants at the committee meeting from a location outside the parliamentary precincts are asked to note that the constitutional protections afforded to those participating within the parliamentary precincts do not extend to them. No clear guidance can be given on whether or the extent to which their participation is covered by absolute privilege of a statutory nature.
Before I invite questions from members, I wish to tell the representatives that they are most welcome here. As a committee we are worried about the horticulture industry, its competitiveness and where it is going to source its raw materials going forward. While we recognise climate change is a fact of life, we want to give the representatives the opportunity to make the case for their industries and to ensure we get a common-sense solution to the transition we face. I was talking to the Minister before I came here and he will be present at our second session later. I wish to hear the representatives' views about what they need from us as politicians so their industries can continue to survive and to prosper economically. The importation of substitutes or alternative products from other countries to fill the shelves that the organisations present currently supply makes absolutely no sense. I was quoted lately as calling it ludicrous and I do not object to that statement being quoted.
I now invite questions from the members. I leave it to the witnesses to see who is best qualified to answer each particular question. If witnesses want to answer they should put up their hand to indicate. Deputy Carthy is first on my list.