Thursday, 24 October 2013

Questions (216)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl


216. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will give consideration to the points raised in correspondence (details supplied) from the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45563/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I welcome the publication of an 'Analysis of the Economic Impact of the Irish thoroughbred Industry, October 2013'. This detailed analysis of the thoroughbred industry, commissioned by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, is a very useful piece of research for anybody with an interest in the sector.

I am acutely aware of the importance of the thoroughbred sector to the Irish economy and its pre-eminent position on the world stage as a global leader in the bloodstock industry. Indeed next week, I will be travelling on a major trade mission to the Gulf States, and the promotion of the Irish thoroughbred sector will be a major feature of the visit. I note that the ITBA Report estimates the industry contributed €1.1bn in economic output and supported 14,000 jobs in 2012. The Report identifies challenges facing the industry and suggests a range of actions aimed at securing the future of the industry.

The ITBA Report raises the issue of the taxation of betting and possible changes to the rate of VAT to be charged on horses. Earlier this year, my colleague, the Minister for Finance, introduced the Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013 which is aimed at updating the system of taxation applying to the betting industry. The Minister for Finance will also address the issue of VAT on horses through the Finance Bill.

The ITBA Report also raises issues with regard to prize money and the importance of the establishment of overseas markets. Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), a commercial state body established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001 and representing key sectors of the thoroughbred industry, is responsible for the overall administration, promotion and development of the industry. Decisions regarding prize money fall within the remit of HRI. Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM) is a subsidiary of HRI. It is funded by HRI and by the Irish bloodstock industry, including breeders, sales companies and stallion farms. ITM provides service and support to overseas visitors interested in the Irish thoroughbred racing and breeding industry. The principal focus of ITM is to generate inward investment and to increase export sales of Irish bloodstock.

Successive Governments have recognised the importance of the horse industry for our country, and have supported it through legislation and policy initiatives. Infrastructural supports are provided to the industry through various measures operated by my Department. This commitment to investment has enabled Ireland to develop into a world centre of excellence for horse racing and breeding. The Deputy is aware that of my personal commitment to this indigenous Irish industry. Since taking office I have taken an active interest in the industry and I commissioned an independent review of the industry in 2012.

Officials in my Department are currently preparing legislative proposals aimed at giving effect to the recommendations contained in the Indecon report on the Irish Horse Racing Industry (2012) which I plan to bring before the Cabinet for approval as soon as possible.