Food Labelling

Questions (566)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

566. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans, if any, to improve labelling regulations so that consumers can be assured that they are purchasing what it says on the pack, and that labelling provides a detailed breakdown of the species of meat in meat products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9679/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Current food legislation, including Directive 13/2000, requires species labelling on meat products sold to the consumer. In addition, beef labelling regulations require detailed traceability and labelling of fresh cuts and pure mince at the retail level. In 2011, the European Union passed a new Council Regulation on Food Information for the Consumers (FIC) Regulation, No.1169/2011, which has updated the requirements for consumer information and labelling in a number of areas: country of origin or place of provenance including the origin labelling for meats other than beef; list of ingredients; quantitative indication of ingredients; minimum durability; use by date; date of freezing; substances or products causing allergies or intolerances; font size; etc. Many of these new requirements will have to be implemented by way of EU Commission Implementing Regulations and will come into force at the end of 2014.

While the Department of Health is the lead department in relation to food labelling, my Department together with the Department of Health and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) attend regular meetings of the Working Group on this legislation in Brussels which is currently discussing the mandatory origin labelling of fresh meat from species other than beef, voluntary origin labelling of foods and the mandatory origin labelling of meat as an ingredient. A report on this and other matters is to be submitted by the Commission to the FIC Working Group by 13 December 2013. The question of origin labelling of meat as an ingredient was discussed at the Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting yesterday, which I chaired. The Commission agreed to expedite the completion of its report.

Food Quality Assurance Scheme

Questions (567)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

567. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to extend the food quality assurance scheme beyond the farm gate to include the food processing and packaging industries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9680/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Quality Assurance Schemes already extend beyond the farm gate as vertical industry integrated schemes have been developed by Bord Bia over a number of years. These Schemes operate in the beef, pigmeat, eggs, lamb, poultry products and horticulture sectors and currently include over 150 participating food processors and packers as well as over 40,000 farmers. The products are available in the major supermarkets and many retail outlets. The standards of the individual Schemes have been developed and refined over a number of years in consultation with scientists, academics and independent experts on issues such as food safety, animal health and welfare, care for the environment etc. Each Scheme is accredited to IS EN ISO 9001:2008 with the National Standards Authority of Ireland and to the European Standard EN45011. These measures underpin ongoing commitment to quality and sustainability as well as to the highest standards of traceability and food safety in the Irish food sector.

Food Imports

Questions (568)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

568. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the value and range of meat products, including horse meat, imported each year for the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9683/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The following table, drawn from the official CSO Trade Statistics gives a breakdown of meat imports into Ireland in 2012 and 2011.

 

2011

2012

Category of Meat

€ 000

Tonnes

€ 000

Tonnes

Poultry

284,092

85,998

326,909

99,187

Pigmeat

214,044

79,027

243,634

81,983

Beef

158,459

46,240

150,054

40,032

Sheepmeat

14,230

3,444

18,384

3,668

Other Meat & Meat Produce

40,739

12,193

38,700

11,331

Including, Meat of Horses, Asses, Mules of Hinnies

             0

            0

           5

          0*

Grand Total

711,564

226,902

777,681

236,201

* The weight of product is too low to feature in official statistics

Food Safety Authority Investigations

Questions (569)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

569. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if, following a request from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to his Department on 21 December 2012 to obtain samples of raw ingredients from two meat processing plants implicated in the adulteration of food products with horsemeat, this matter was brought to his attention and to the attention of the Department of Health, which has responsibility for food safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9686/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As I indicated in my detailed statement on this matter to the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 5th February, the finding of 29% equine DNA in a burger first became available to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on 11th January and was made available to my Department on 14th January. Up to that point there was no basis for any action. My Department was requested on 21st December by the FSAI to obtain samples of raw ingredients in the context of the FSAI survey on the authenticity of meat products, preliminary results of which indicated traces of non-bovine DNA. My Department was requested by the FSAI not to take any other action as results were inconclusive and required further evaluation by the FSAI. In this context the FSAI has pointed out that where trace levels are detected this is indicative of inadvertent rather than deliberate presence and not requiring declaration on the product label. It is and always has been standard practice that preliminary results are subject to a process of confirmatory testing.

Having regard to the range of sampling activity taking place at any given time, the lack of any public health concern, the inconclusive nature of the results and the trace level findings, the request of the FSAI on 21st December 2012 to obtain samples of raw ingredients was not regarded as approaching the priority level at which it would be appropriate that it be brought to my attention. When the FSAI provided my Department with actual results including the 29% finding for the first time on 14th January 2013 it was brought to my attention. I understand from the Department of Health that the FSAI notified that Department of its request to obtain samples on 21st December 2012. It stressed, however, that there were no public health concerns and that no further action was required at that time.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments

Questions (570)

Pat Breen

Question:

570. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 847 of 16 January 2013, when payment of the agri environment option scheme will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9689/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved for participation in the 2011 Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from the 1st September 2011 and full payment totalling €909.15 issued in respect of 2011. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. Payments in respect of the 2012 Scheme year are subject to a similar administrative checking process which includes verification of capital investment through checks on receipts. These checks have been successfully completed and full payment totalling €3,601.80 issued in respect of the 2012 scheme year – 75% payment issued on 14th February and the balancing 25% payment issued on 18th February 2013.

Grocery Industry Competition

Questions (571)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

571. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the work being carried out for his Department to establish the proportion of the margin on the sale of meat and dairy products that are going to the retailer, the processor and the producer respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9705/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

While I obviously consider it essential that profits in the production chain are distributed equitably the matter raised is primarily one for my colleague the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation. I would point out, however, that the Programme for Government contains a specific commitment to enact legislation to regulate certain practices in the grocery goods sector. The Government intends to give effect to this commitment by including an enabling provision in the legislation currently being prepared to merge the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority, which will allow for the introduction of a statutory Code of Practice. Work on drafting the Consumer and Competition Bill is on-going and the Bill is included in the “A list” in the Government’s current Legislative Programme. It is important to point out that in introducing a statutory Code the intention is not to protect one stakeholder over another nor is the Code intended to prevent stakeholders such as retailers and suppliers from engaging in the type of contractual negotiations that happen in most other sectors of the economy. It is also the case that the Code is not seeking in any way to determine the price of grocery goods. Rather, the essential value of the Code is that by regulating problematic practices in the grocery goods sector it seeks to strike a fair balance between the competing interests of the various stakeholders including the interests of the end user, the consumer.

The Government is strongly of the view that it important to ensure there is balance in the relationship between the various players in the grocery goods sector and that Ireland continues to have strong agri food and retail sectors, particularly given the importance of these sectors to the national economy. The introduction of a Code of Practice, as provided for in the Programme for Government, is intended to achieve such a balance taking into account the interests of all stakeholders in the grocery goods sector. It must also be noted, however, that arrangements in the domestic market are not the primary influence on farmers’ incomes. Unsurprisingly, with an Agri-Food industry that exported over €9bn of goods last year, the bulk of most Irish farmers’ produce is exported (e.g. 4 out of 5 beef cattle produced in Ireland are consumed in other countries), so EU and world prices have a much bigger influence on the price farmers receive for their output overall than does the retail price in Ireland.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Payments

Questions (572)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

572. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the agri environment options scheme 1 payment will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9710/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from the 1st September 2010 and full payments totalling €608.11 and €4,195.14 issued in respect of 2010 and 2011 respectively. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. The application was also selected for a Cross Compliance inspection which resulted in a penalty of 20% being imposed. Officials in my Department are finalising the application of the person named on this basis with the intention of issuing payment for the 2012 scheme year as soon as possible.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

Questions (573)

Dan Neville

Question:

573. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding single farm payment for 2012 in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9713/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Any monies recouped from the first moiety of the Single Farm payment in question have been refunded to the person named. A refund of €6,917.38 was made on 14 February and a refund of the remaining balance of €58.10 was made on 26 February. With regard to the outstanding debt associated with this payment, no repayment proposal has been received by my Department to date.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

Questions (574)

John McGuinness

Question:

574. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if an application under force majeure for a single farm payment has been examined in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [9724/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department is currently reviewing the 2006 to 2010 applications of the person named, specifically, the eligibility under the above Schemes of two land parcels owned by him. These parcels were also declared by another party during the above years. My Department is investigating the matter and corresponding with the parties concerned to establish the eligibility of these parcels. As soon as this review is completed, the person named will be informed, in writing, of the outcome.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Applications

Questions (575)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

575. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a decision has been made in relation to a derogation appeal lodged by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if not, when the decision is likely to be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9730/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

While the person named successfully applied for derogation in regard to the 2011 stocking density aspect of the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, payment has not issued as the holding does not satisfy the 2012 Scheme minimum stocking density requirements. My Department has been in direct contact with the advisor of the person named to clarify the matter.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Applications

Questions (576)

Dan Neville

Question:

576. Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if all payments due to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick will issue without further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9733/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved for participation in the 2011 Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from 1st September 2011 and has received full payment totalling €1,167.51 in respect of 2011. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme, a comprehensive administrative check of all applications, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. Payments in respect of the 2012 Scheme year are subject to a similar administrative checking process which includes verification of capital investments through checks on receipts. During the course of these checks on the capital investment claim a query was identified and a letter issued to the person named dated 30 January 2013 regarding this query. A reply to this query has been received and is being dealt with by my Department at present. Once resolved, the application will be further processed with the intention of issuing payment for 2012 at the earliest opportunity.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme Payments

Questions (577)

Billy Timmins

Question:

577. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding a rural environment protection scheme 4 payment in respect of a person (details supplied) and if he will expedite the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9810/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named commenced REPS 4 in February 2009 and received payments for the first three years of their contract. REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural Development Programme and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payments can issue. The administrative checks in this instance have been completed and the 75% Year 4 payment amounting to €3391.99 issued to the person named on 18th February 2013. The remaining 25% Year 4 balancing payment will issue shortly.

Single Payment Scheme Eligibility

Questions (578)

Jim Daly

Question:

578. Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if applicants who are over the age of 40 years can still receive the single farm payment if they are not currently in receipt of this payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9818/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under the current Single Payment Scheme the National Reserve caters for new entrants to farming regardless of age, provided they meet certain educational and income criteria. Under the commission proposals for the CAP post 2013 similar arrangements will continue to apply.

Natural Heritage Areas Designation

Questions (579)

Michael Creed

Question:

579. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 627 of 29 January 2013, if he will provide clarity regarding the terms NHA and proposed NHA designation in respect of the lands (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9835/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The basic designation for wildlife is the Natural Heritage Area (NHA). This is an area considered important for the habitats present or which holds species of plants and animals whose habitat needs protection. Proposed NHAs (pNHAs) were published on a non-statutory basis in 1995, but have not since been statutorily proposed or designated. These designations do not fall under the scope of the Rural Development Plan and are not designations that attract payment under European Regulations. Boylesgrove Wood is designated pNHA and is not eligible for payment under REPS 4.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme Applications

Questions (580)

Michael Creed

Question:

580. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason for the delay in processing a rural environment protection scheme 4 grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9841/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named commenced REPS 4 in January 2008 and received payments for the first four years of their contract. REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural Development Programme and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payments can issue. These checks are currently nearing completion in this case and I expect the outstanding 2012 payment to issue shortly.

Fish Landings

Questions (581)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

581. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his policy in relation to the landing of fish caught at sea by non-Irish vessels at Irish ports; the steps being taken to encourage more vessels to land catches at Irish ports; the regulations currently in place including SFPA inspections; the changes that have been made to these regulations recently that have resulted in a reduction in the number of non-Irish vessels landing fish here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9856/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Some 1.2 million tonnes of fish are caught in the waters around Ireland on an annual basis but at present, only approximately 200,000 tonnes of this is landed into Ireland. An Bord Iascaigh Mhara is working to address this issue, particularly as oil prices increase and the cost of sending trawlers full of fish to Spain, France, Scotland and Norway becomes less economical. With the increase in the Blue whiting quota for 2013, it is anticipated that there will be increased levels of this stock landed into Ireland by foreign vessels. I understand that negotiations are ongoing between representatives of the French fishing industry and Irish processing interests, with a view to increasing French landings into Ireland. A pilot initiative was developed between BIM, Irish processors and French industry during late 2012. All concerned are seeking to build on the success of this initiative in 2013.

In relation to official controls carried out by the SFPA these are done in order to discharge Ireland's obligations under the Framework for the control of the Common Fisheries Policy in EU Waters as set out in Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009, establishing a Community control system to ensure compliance with the rules of the CFP and Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Detailed rules for the implementation of the control regulation are set out in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 404/2011, and I have implemented these in national law through Statutory Instrument 320 of 2012 as amended. This is the regulatory EU framework against which the SFPA carries out its inspection regime.

These regulations contain an explicit default obligation requiring that all fish be weighed by operators at the point of landing. In order to ensure a reasonable balance between the burden of compliance and the practicalities of fish landing, SFPA has pursued and achieved approval for landings to Ireland to avail of various derogations. These allow, in particular for a sample weighing at landing, or a weighing after transport to an Irish premises. In the case of landings to a Member State for transport to another Member State before weighing, the EU Regulation is prescriptive in only allowing that to occur under the terms of a Common Control Programme agreed between the landing MS and the weighing MS. I am pleased to inform you that due to active engagement by the SFPA with their French counterparts as part of overall pursuit of a level playing field for fisheries control, the EU Commission has approved the Common Control programme between Ireland and France, and anyone landing to Ireland may transport their fish directly to France for weighing, provided they work within the terms of this approved CCP. The SFPA have engaged in a specific compliance programme including active dialogue with industry stakeholders, with view to discharging Ireland’s obligations in this regard.

At the request of the industry, I have recently added Castletownbere to the list of Irish ports at which third country landings can be processed and this is aimed to facilitate an increase in landings of Blue Whiting into Ireland by the Norwegian fleet. This is contained in S.I 367 of 2012 Sea-Fisheries (Illegal, Unreported And Unregulated Fishing) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.

Afforestation Programme

Questions (582)

Michael Creed

Question:

582. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding further afforestation at a location (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9870/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Mullaghareirk is located within a Special Protection Area (SPA) designated for the protection of the hen harrier where restrictions apply to planting and other developments. Any future afforestation within the SPA must take into account the results of recent Hen Harrier breeding and distribution surveys, the availability of suitable habitat, existing forest cover, age profile of existing forests, and the effects of other cumulative developments on hen harrier populations e.g. wind farms.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht is in the process of developing a Threat Response Plan (TRP) for the conservation of Hen harriers. Forestry will form a significant element of the plan, particularly in relation to overall forest restructuring. Pending the completion of the TRP and forestry components therein, my Department is not in a position to make a determination on the potential impact of afforestation projects on Hen harriers within the SPA and is not, therefore, in a position to approve any afforestation projects within the SPA at this time. My Department is working with NPWS in the development of the TRP which will determine the circumstances in which further afforestation, if any, might be accommodated in Hen harrier SPAs without impacting on the conservation of the species.

Departmental Offices

Questions (583)

Michael McNamara

Question:

583. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to close the District Veterinary Office in Limerick and any other District Veterinary offices to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9915/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department is currently reviewing the administrative support for its 16 Regional Offices and, in particular, the centralisation of this support in one or more centralised office(s). Centralising administrative procedures would enable my Department to reduce the number of administrative staff it requires to support District Veterinary Office operations and, accordingly, the cost of providing its services. The administrative functions for Cork have been recently centralised in Cork city and the administrative functions in the Limerick DVO will be transferred to Naas with effect from 4th March, front office presence will remain. It has also been decided to transfer the administrative functions out of the Tipperary Regional Office to Cavan. The centralisation of administrative functions in other regional offices will be considered in light of the availability of opportunities to redeploy the staff concerned to support other critical public services. There are no plans for the closure of any of the 16 Regional Offices to the public in the context of this review.

Single Payment Scheme Payments

Questions (584)

Martin Ferris

Question:

584. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide a breakdown of the number of farmers receiving €50,000 in single farm payment in County Clare; the number receiving below €5,000 per year. [9962/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Of the farmers in Co Clare, 31 were paid 2012 Single Farm Payment of over €50,000, while 2,540 were paid less than €5,000.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Appeals

Questions (585)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

585. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment under the 2012 disadvantaged area scheme will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the reason for the delay in issuing this payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9963/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named is one of a number of applicants under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, whose cases were impacted by the requirement of a minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare in 2011 and who applied for and were refused derogation in this regard. The applicant subsequently availed of the option to appeal to the independently chaired DAS Appeals Committee. The Committee is currently adjudicating on this appeal and the person named will be notified of the outcome, in writing, once this adjudication is completed.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme Payments

Questions (586)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

586. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a 2012 disadvantaged area scheme payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10026/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The holding of the person named has recently been confirmed as having met the minimum stocking density requirements of the Scheme, following receipt of outstanding evidence relating to sheep on the holding. This has enabled processing of the application to be finalised, with payment due to issue shortly to the nominated bank account.

Importation of Fertilisers

Questions (587)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

587. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the composition of imported fertilisers have been scientifically tested; the frequency with which this testing is carried out; and the last time such testing was carried out. [10038/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Ireland does not have a fertiliser manufacturing industry and, therefore, all inorganic fertilisers used are imported. A risk based annual programme of sampling is prepared which sets out the number of samples of various types of fertiliser that are to be taken at various fertiliser blending facilities and ports. These samples are taken by Authorised Officers of my Department and are analysed by the State Laboratory, in accordance with the appropriate accredited laboratory methods. In 2012, 111 samples of such fertilisers were taken and in excess of 300 analyses for nutrient composition were undertaken. Sampling and testing of fertilisers primarily takes place in Spring and Winter (to coincide with imports and blending) and is ongoing at present.