I propose to take Questions Nos. 683 and 684 together.
The pig sector accounts for approximately 6% of the overall agrifood industry and is the third largest individual component of the agrifood sector. Output, prices and exports have continued the growth of recent years to date in 2012. The ‘ Food Harvest 2020 Report’, published in July 2010, sets out the vision for the future of the food industry including the pig sector and targets a 50% increase in the value of output by 2020. I am confident that, given the appropriate supports and expertise, this target will be achieved.
One of the primary issues for the sector at present concerns new EU Animal Welfare rules which set down new standards in relation to the housing of sows. These are due to come into force on 1 January 2013. A significant number of producers have undertaken the necessary work required in order to upgrade their facilities in order to comply with the new rules. In March 2012, Teagasc estimated that approximately 36% of pig units, housing some 44% of the sow population were presently compliant with the provisions. I have been clear in my view that a fully compliant pig sector is an essential regulatory and competitive requirement with effect from 1st January 2013.
To facilitate compliance with the requirements, an on-farm investment aid scheme (TAMS) — the Sow Housing Welfare Scheme was introduced under Ireland's Rural Development Programme 2007-2013. I have recently announced a number of enhancements to this scheme which will further assist farmers in completing the necessary investment works. The investment ceiling has been increased to €500,000 per pig producer for the first sow house. In addition, an investment ceiling of €300,000 will now be available for each of the next three houses. The maximum grant rate of 40% of investment remains unchanged. I have provided a total of €13 million for this scheme with €4 million already committed and I welcome applications from pig producers before the 31 October application deadline for this funding.
I should add that this scheme is in addition to earlier Sow Welfare Schemes which delivered over €6 million to successful applicants.
With regard to financial support available to the pig industry, Enterprise Ireland operates various programmes relating to company development. Included among these are Research and Development and Innovation Funding. Through a mix of funding, advice and expertise, Enterprise Ireland works with companies planning or engaging in R&D. Assistance for product development is also available through the Teagasc National Food Centre in Ashtown, Dublin 15. A number of businesses within the pig sector have availed of these programmes in recent years.