I thank the Minister for bringing this Bill to the House. On behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, I am happy to support the Bill. I hope the Minister has the same cross-party in this House that he enjoyed in the other House. I acknowledge the input of Deputy Kelly into this Bill. This is a very well thought-out Bill and it is excellent to see it before the House today.
As the Minister noted, the craft microbrewery industry is very innovative and exciting. It is an exciting emerging market in Ireland and we should do everything in our power to encourage and support it. There has been an explosion in microbreweries in recent years. I note there has been a 29% increase in the number of production microbreweries from 48 in 2015 to 62 in 2016. This figure has quadrupled since 2012. It is a huge area that has the potential to grow even more.
There is potential to develop this industry and this Bill lends support to the industry. It is a practical step that we can take to encourage the industry and tourism. Tourism is so important given the context of Brexit. We need to enhance our tourism product and do more to encourage people to visit not only Dublin, large urban centres and large tourism centres but other areas of the country that have a lot to offer. Emerging microbreweries in certain areas can do a lot for the local economy and local employment, and it is right and proper that we do everything to encourage that and enhance local employment in the area.
It is worth noting the food and drinks industry, how it has developed over the years in Ireland and how important it is for our economy and tourism sector. The microbrewery and craft brewery industry does a lot to enhance our international reputation. It is worth noting that the alcohol product is, by and large, consumed in a very different manner to other alcohol products. It is consumed by connoisseurs along with food and is not abused in the way other alcohol products have a tendency to be abused, so we should encourage this type of alcohol production and consumption and the promotion of Ireland in this manner.