Trade Agreements

Questions (175)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

175. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is satisfied that Irish and European food producers are not likely to suffer any disadvantage in the context of WTO negotiations or EU-US trade discussions in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14435/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As a small trading nation, we depend on trade to drive our economy and have much to gain from free trade agreements. In that respect we have substantial offensive interests in the agreements being negotiated with the United States and also with Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. Of course we have defensive interests too – related primarily to our beef sector. Our strategy is to push hard for agreements that balance these offensive interests with our defensive ones. These principles apply equally across the EU and within the EU Commission, which negotiates on behalf of Member States.

On TTIP Ireland is pressing hard to secure substantial access for our dairy products to the US and to eliminate the technical barriers that hinder that trade. We are also pushing for better access for our pork, cereals and beverages sectors.

On beef, we will continue to argue, as we have been doing, that any beef quotas awarded to the US must be limited in size and must take into account the segmentation of the EU market between high value cuts and other beef.

As to the WTO, at the Ministerial Conference in Bali last December, Ministers mandated the negotiating committee to prepare a clearly defined work program on the remaining Doha Development Agenda issues. Although expectations are not high, the EU may come under pressure to agree a further mini-package that could include more far-reaching commitments on export subsidies. My view is that we should seek a comprehensive, balanced and ambitious outcome across all elements of DDA negotiations. We are, of course, prepared to engage actively in the post Bali work programme.

Food Labelling

Question No. 177 answered with Question No. 166.

Questions (176)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

176. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he continues to be satisfied that labelling and traceability regulations applicable throughout the European Union in respect of product originating within the Union or outside continue to be observed in the spirit and the letter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14436/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Food production and labelling rules in the European Union operate in accordance with harmonised rules and member states controls are subject to audit and supervision by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the EU.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) under the aegis the Minister for Health has overall responsibility for the enforcement of food safety and labelling requirements in Ireland. It carries out this remit through service contracts with my Department and other agencies including the Health Service Executive (HSE), Local Authority Veterinary Service and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority. Inspections to ensure compliance with labelling legislation are carried out by a variety of inspection services provided by these agencies under the aforementioned contracts.

Under current EU regulations, origin labelling is only mandatory for fresh beef. However, new implementing rules on country of origin labelling for fresh, chilled and frozen sheep, goat, pig and poultry meat were adopted by the European Commission in December 2013. These new rules will apply from 1 April 2015.

In relation to traceability, EU Food Hygiene Regulations stipulate, among other things, that there should be 'one up, one down' traceability at each point along the food chain and I am satisfied that food business operators in this country generally meet that standard.

Question No. 177 answered with Question No. 166.

Food Imports

Questions (178)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

178. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which beef, lamb, pigmeat, poultry, fish product and-or by-products imported directly or indirectly into this jurisdiction are subject to the full extent of the levels of traceability, production, hygiene and husbandry applicable here and throughout the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14438/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

International trade in agri-food products is a reality which we embrace as a general proposition, as a country with a strong export focus, it is clearly in Ireland's broader economic interests to ensure that there is a stable and balanced international trade environment.

To protect animal and public health and in accordance with international trade agreements, the European Union (EU) has set down the conditions for importation of consignments of products of animal origin from non-EU countries including fish and fish products intended for release into free circulation in the EU. These import requirements are generic and applicable for all countries authorised to export to the EU. The legislation imposes a series of health and supervisory requirements, designed to ensure that imported products meet standards at least equivalent to those required for production in, and trade between Member States.

An annual audit of imported products is carried out in each Department approved meat plant. The audit includes physical identity, labelling and documentary checks. This includes product originating both in EU Member States and third countries. In addition, labelling and documentary checks form part of the routine checks conducted by Department officials.

Products must have originated in an area where there are no restrictions imposed under EU Safeguard measures and come from establishments which are under the supervision and control of the competent authorities. The products must be free from residues and contaminants, correctly labelled and travel with the specific health certificates or other documents conforming to the models laid down in EU legislation drawn up in conformity with the relevant model for the product, completed and signed on behalf of the competent authorities of the country of export. The EU's Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) carries out assessments of third countries wishing to export these products to the EU and submits for Commission approval those where the responsible authorities can provide appropriate guarantees as regards compliance or equivalence with Community feed and food law and animal health rules. Third countries and their establishments that are approved to export are audited and inspected by the FVO with regard to these guarantees and reports of the findings of inspections are published on its website.

Import controls on products of animal origin arriving from third countries must be performed at an EU Border Inspection Post approved for that category of product being presented. Consignments for import requiring veterinary checks must be notified in advance to the Border Inspection Post of import and presented on arrival for checks with all the appropriate documentation. Border Inspection Posts in Ireland are operated by my Department. The import controls procedures on products of animal origin are highly prescriptive and strictly audited by the FVO to ensure compliance. Again, reports of the findings of inspections are published on the FVO's website. In order to import fish or fishery products into Ireland from a non EU country or non European Economic Area Country the general position is that the person who wishes to import fish/fishery products is required to register with the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA). Application forms can be obtained from SFPA. Following registration the importer is assigned a unique registration number and all details are kept on the SFPA register of importers of fish/fishery products.

In summary, the import of products from third countries is governed by a comprehensive and robust legislative framework laid down at EU level, controlled by EU Member States in the first instance, and audited by the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office, to ensure compliance with all of the relevant food safety standards.

Agriculture Scheme Data

Questions (179)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

179. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which all farm support payments already due have been paid up to date; the number, if any, outstanding for technical or other reasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14439/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Single Payment Scheme - Payments under the 2013 Single Payment Scheme began issuing on target on 16 October. To date payments worth nearly €1.2 billion have issued to 122,659 applicants. An additional 631 applicants remain to be paid. All of those who have yet to be paid have been contacted by the Department in relation to various queries which must be resolved prior to payment being issued. Payments continue to issue on a weekly basis, as individual cases are confirmed eligible for payment.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Payments under the 2013 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme began issuing on target on 25 September. While there is no regulatory date by which DAS payments must commence, it is generally recognised and indeed acknowledged in the Farmers' Charter, that the third week in September of any given year is the earliest feasible payment date, given the volume and complexity of processing involved. To date, payments worth €199.1 million have issued to over 94,000 farmers.

Payments continue to issue on a weekly basis, with individual cases being paid the amount due as they are confirmed eligible. It should be appreciated, however, that many applicants, who declare land situated in a Disadvantaged Area are not eligible for payment under the Scheme either because they do not maintain any animals or those that do maintain animals do not keep sufficient livestock to meet the minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units per hectare. This is a normal feature of the Disadvantaged Area Scheme.

Successive EU audits have made it clear that payments should not issue under Area Based schemes, including Single Farm and Disadvantaged Areas, until all queries associated with an application are resolved

Grassland Sheep Scheme

Payments commenced on 10 December 2013 and to date payments in excess of 12.5 million have issued to over 29,000 farmers.

Agri – Environment Schemes

Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS)

In relation to 2013 a total of 26,821 applicants have now received a total of €152.33m under their REPS 4 contracts. Of this amount 26,478 have received their full 100% payment. The remaining 343 participants will receive the balance of their payments this week.

A further 2,389 participants are still active in REPS. My officials are continuing to process the remaining files and are in contact with those still to be paid regarding any outstanding issues.

Agri – Environment Options Scheme (AEOS)

6,914 AEOS 1 participants have received €26.68m and 5,239 AEOS 2 participants have received €16.73m in respect of their 2013 payment. Of this amount 6,387 AEOS 1 and 4,847 AEOS 2 participants have received their full 100% payment. The remaining 527 AEOS 1 participants and 392 AEOS 2 participants will receive the balance of their payments shortly.

Files in respect of a further 767 AEOS 1 participants and 766 AEOS 2 participants remain under examination and officials within my Department are working through these to resolve any outstanding issues.

There are 5,963 active participants in the AEOS 3 Scheme. The checking process for this Scheme is well under way and I expect that payments for this Scheme will commence shortly.

Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS)

Grant payments under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) are also subject to eligibility checks including on-farm inspections in order to assess eligibility and payments are dependent on the completion of the project concerned and submission of a valid, documented claim. Over €31m of payments have already been made under the schemes, following verification of submitted payment claims. There is no undue delay between the date of receipt of the payment claim and its verification and the subsequent issue of payment.

Fisheries Protection

Questions (180, 181, 182, 184)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

180. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which all countries throughout the European Union observe conservation measures to safeguard fishing stocks; the locations still most vulnerable in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14441/14]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

181. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if, in the context of any discussions with his EU colleagues, particular reference continues to be made to the effectiveness of conservation measures throughout the European Union, with particular reference to different fish species or those deemed to be most vulnerable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14442/14]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

182. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which conservation measures already adopted in the context of the Common Fisheries Policy or otherwise continue to improve fish stocks in traditional Irish fishing waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14443/14]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

184. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he, in conjunction with his colleagues in the EU, continues to be aware of the difficulties facing families dependent on the fishing industry here and throughout the European Union; the measures being pursued to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14445/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 to 182, inclusive, and 184 together.

From the outset of the Common Fisheries Policy revision process, Ireland's overarching goal was to ensure a sustainable, profitable and self reliant industry that protects and enhances the social and economic fabric of rural coastal communities dependent on the seafood sector, while balancing these objectives with the need to safeguard fish stocks for future generations. I strongly believe that the new CFP will achieve that goal.

The new CFP, negotiated to completion under the Irish Presidency, will mean real meaningful reform to how EU waters are fished in the future. The agreement is designed to ensure the long term sustainability of fishing in Ireland and throughout EU waters, utilising best scientific advice as a key determinant in setting annual fishing quotas in the future.

The new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) will provide the framework for the long term sustainability of fish stocks around our shores, the continued economic viability of our fishing fleet and fish processing while supporting the communities that depend on a vibrant fishing industry. The package agreed will support the rebuilding of fish stocks in European waters and will allow for setting TACs and quotas to reflect catches when a landing obligation is introduced on the basis that for the first and subsequent years, discarding of that stock will no longer be allowed. In the longer term as fish stocks reach and are maintained at healthy levels, it will support increased fishing opportunities for our fishermen.

New opportunities for the direct involvement of the fishing industry are also a central part of the new CFP Reform which, for the first time, introduces a regionalised approach to fisheries management. We have moved away from the old system of an EU decision making approach centralised in Brussels. The new policy puts fishermen at the core of developing conservation measures for fisheries in which they are involved and also makes specific references to taking account of the needs of our fishermen.

A key element of the new CFP is the setting of fishing levels on the basis of the MSY Principle (Maximum Sustainable Yield). This should lead to healthy fish stocks, higher quotas for Irish fishermen and more sustainable fishing patterns.

The reform also contains a commitment to continue and further strengthen conservation measures in the biologically sensitive areas, including that off the South and West coast of Ireland (new Irish box). This commitment will also protect the livelihoods of coastal communities by ensuring that fish are allowed to grow to maturity, are more plentiful and fished in an environmentally responsible manner. A new framework of Technical measures will also be introduced to avoid and minimise catches of juvenile fish.

Details on fish stocks in Irish waters are monitored by the Marine Institute (MI) and published annually in their 'MI Stock Book' which is prepared by the Institute's Fisheries Ecosystems Advisory Services (FEAS) and presented to my Department in October each year. The publication also contains important up to date scientific advice on the state of fisheries resources which informs fishing opportunities for the following year. The Stock Book contains impartial scientific advice developed by the Marine Institute working with other international scientists and is developed using the latest available research, assessments and advice on the fisheries resource.

The seas around Ireland (ICES Sub Areas VII and VI) are among the most productive and biologically sensitive areas in EU waters. Most of the fisheries resource within the area comes under the remit of the EUs Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In June 2013, the European Commission reported that fish stocks in European waters are improving (EC COM(2013) 319 final). The proportion of overfished stocks in the Atlantic declined from around 90% of all stocks between 2005-2009 to 39% in 2013. Some stocks in the west of Scotland, Irish Sea and Celtic sea have suffered from being over fished in the past and remain vulnerable (i.e. Cod in Divisions VIa and VIIa, Sole in Division VIIa, Whiting in Divisions VIa and VIIa).

This morning I also launched the Atlas of Commercial Fisheries around Ireland published by the Marine Institute. This shows the distribution of fishing activities in Irish waters by gear and country. Fishing grounds as well as the distribution of landings for all the main commercial species are also shown at high resolution. The Atlas presents complex data in a very visual way using informative maps, making it accessible to a whole range of stakeholders. It brings a new level of transparency in terms of fishing activities and offers new possibilities in terms of spatial management of mixed fisheries. Both the Stock Book and the Atlas are available to download on the Marine Institute's web site at www.marine.ie. The information provided helps to form the policy and positions adopted when negotiating annual fishing opportunities each December.

A new funding support mechanism, the European Fisheries and Maritime Fund is being finalised at EU level which will support the fishing industry adapt to the new CFP and support development of the seafood industry. A programme for the development of the seafood industry in Ireland is being prepared and will be developed in full consultation with stakeholders.