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Departmental Staff

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 13 March 2012

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Questions (444)

Seamus Kirk

Question:

498 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if, in view of the depleted research and advisory personnel available to the protected crops unit, he will urgently examine this deficit and bring forward proposals to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13996/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

Teagasc, in common with all other public bodies, has had to play its part in the planned reduction in public service numbers and pay costs set down by the previous Government in 2010 under the National Recovery Plan. The allocation of resources to particular programmes/services etc is an operational matter for Teagasc.

The question of additional resources must have regard to the need to reduce public service numbers and to achieve savings in the pay bill. This requires all public bodies to comply with annual ceilings on staff numbers and to reallocate or reorganise work or staff accordingly. Any exceptions to this principle can only be considered in limited circumstances.

I am advised by Teagasc that they have produced a detailed Plan for the Development of Horticulture in Teagasc in the period up to end 2013. The objectives of the plan are:

1. To identify horticultural enterprise areas for development.

2. To develop a plan which identifies the staff and structures required to deliver the Teagasc horticultural programme through an integrated research, advisory and education unit.

In relation to protected crops, given the technological advances and costs involved in protected cropping research, Teagasc have identified the need to partner with organisations such as the Horticultural Development Company (HDC) in the United Kingdom in order to access the most relevant information in the most cost effective manner. Teagasc and the HDC signed a memorandum of understanding in late 2011 and are now in discussions to jointly fund research in many areas of Horticulture, protected cropping being one.

Teagasc have also had informal discussions with protected crop growers about how best to service the industry. The suggestions from that consultation were that, given the limited resources available, Teagasc organise study tours to visit organisations developing new glasshouse technologies and also to bring international experts to Ireland to address growers on specific topics of interest, such as energy efficiency. Both these recommendations are currently being followed up and implemented by Teagasc as a matter of priority.

By 2013 Teagasc plan to have built a modern Glasshouse research facility at its Ashtown Campus. It is envisaged that part of this complex will be used to trial and demonstrate the most modern technologies and practises being developed internationally in protected cropping.

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