Questions Nos. 54 to 65, inclusive, answered orally.

Grocery Industry Regulation

Questions (66)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

66. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the perceived deficits in legislation and regulations relating to the welfare and export of greyhounds; his plans to remedy such deficits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13884/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am fully committed to promoting good practices that respect the welfare of all animals and my Department devotes considerable resources to protecting animal welfare and in dealing with breaches of animal welfare legislation. This is reflected in the large amount of legislation that has been brought forward in recent years in this area. In particular, I would draw the Deputy's attention to the Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013 - a major piece of legislation that applies to all animal including greyhounds. This provides for the welfare of all animals and does not just apply to those directly involved in their husbandry but also those involved in the sale or transport of animals or otherwise.

In the case of greyhounds, there is further specific protection of their welfare set out in the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 which makes provisions to ensure their well being. This Act also empowers officers of the Bord na gCon to inspect premises where greyhounds are kept to ensure a suitable standard is maintained. While Bord na gCon has no statutory function regarding the regulation of greyhound exports, nevertheless, it has been very clear that it does not support the export of greyhounds to destinations where the standard of care falls below that required in Irish legislation.

I have received assurances from Bord na gCon that it is committed to the expansion of its existing ‘Code of Practice in the Care and Welfare of the Greyhound’ to include advice on best practice when exporting greyhounds. Work on the expanded Code will be finalised when consideration of the Greyhound Industry Bill has been completed by the Oireachtas.

My Department works closely with animal welfare charities on the various aspects of animal welfare. I welcome the initiative of the Dogs Trust in facilitating the International Greyhound Forum, which includes the ISPCA and Bord na gCon. The Forum continues to give consideration to issues relating to the export of greyhounds.

I believe that the animal welfare legislation introduced in recent years represents a positive development and has been welcomed by all those who care for animals.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (67)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

67. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he remains satisfied regarding the provisions made by his Department to offset a Brexit crash-out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13991/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I have said on many occasions that there is no upside to Brexit, particularly in the agri-food sector.

In order to help mitigate the potential impacts on the sector I have introduced a number of budgetary measures aimed at improving competitiveness, and developing market and product diversification. These included a series of low cost loan schemes to assist in on-farm and agri business cost effectiveness, and additional supports to Bord Bia and Teagasc to support market and product diversification in order to help reduce our exposure to the UK market.

I have also had a series of bilateral discussions with Commissioner Hogan on the impact of Brexit, including en marge of the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels last week. Commissioner Hogan has reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland, and we will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.

While ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement is still the Government's primary objective, preparations are underway for a no-deal Brexit.

My Department has been working with other departments and agencies to have the necessary arrangements in place for import controls at our ports and airports in order to allow the Department to fulfil its legal obligations as efficiently as possible, while also ensuring the minimum possible disruption to trading arrangements.

The Department has also sharpened its Brexit communications strategy through an enhanced Brexit page on its website, the circulation of focused Trader Notices, the establishment of a Brexit Call Centre and dedicated email address, and increased use of social media such as TWITTER. I would urge operators in the sector to engage with these services as we continue our preparations for a possible no deal Brexit.

Harbours and Piers Maintenance

Questions (68)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

68. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to dredge Howth Harbour; the timeframe and budget for the project; if the local stakeholders and Fingal County Council have been consulted on the plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13885/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Howth Fishery Harbour Centre is one of the six designated Fishery Harbour Centres which are owned, managed and maintained by my Department under Statute.

Siltation in Howth Harbour has been recognised as an issue for some time, and the requirement for a dredging project to restore adequate depth in the entrance channel and within the harbour is accepted. The Harbour was last dredged in the early 1980s. A number of investigative and preparatory works and initiatives have been undertaken over the last few years in respect of a potential dredging project in Howth Fishery Harbour Centre.

The Department appointed a firm of Consulting Engineers in 2016 to advise on a number of possible developments in Howth, including a dredging project. A final report was issued from the Consulting Engineers in late October 2017 which confirmed that, while the concentrations of contaminants in the sediment to be dredged are such that it is classified as “non-hazardous”, this classification means that dumping at sea will not be permitted, which in turn has a significant effect on the project cost.

Department Engineers subsequently met with Fingal County Council, to review possible operational and permitting requirements. Engagement with the Council is ongoing in regard to exploring disposal options for the dredged material. The Department’s view is that an option to re-use the dredged material to the west of the West Pier as part of the methodology for the project is the most effective and efficient option. It is estimated that circa 225,000 cubic metres of silt will need to be removed from the harbour in the event that a full harbour dredge is undertaken. It is also the position that if the option to re-use the material is not possible, the potential costs of the project increase significantly and the overall scope of the project would have to be re-examined.

The project itself will require Planning Permission, an Environmental Impact Statement and a Waste License which are being progressed. The permitting process is likely to take up to 24 months. A variety of factors will impact on the cost of a potential dredging project including the disposal options, overall scale of the project, and market factors.

The Department went to tender on the 3rd of October 2018 for a Consulting Engineering practice to bring the project through the planning, environmental permitting and design phase, and should a decision be made to progress the project, the consultant will also be responsible for the supervision of onsite works. The successful tender was commissioned for these works on the 19th of December 2018.

As part of the 2019 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme, I have allocated €100,000 for the continuation of the preparatory works for a dredging project in Howth as set out above. As is the case with all developments in the six Fishery Harbour Centres, any future decision with regard to initiating a full dredging works project in Howth Fishery Harbour Centre will only be considered on the basis of available exchequer funding and competing national priorities.

Agriculture Industry

Questions (69)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

69. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to move agriculture here towards a model that is less reliant on synthetic inputs and a model that would help restore natural resources. [13978/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Food Wise 2025 identifies “Sustainability” as a central requirement of food production and management of our environment whilst also recognising that Ireland does face significant challenges in meeting some national and international environmental targets. Agriculture has a key role to play in contributing to meeting these targets.

One of my priorities is to ensure Ireland and Irish food producers are playing, and continue to play, a vital and positive role in the protection and enhancement of Ireland’s landscapes, waterways, biodiversity and air quality. In this regard, I launched the 4th Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) on the 4th December 2017 in cooperation with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, which yielded a package of measures that raises the bar in tackling agricultural impacts on water. A key feature of successive reviews has been focus on maximising the nutrient value of recycled slurry and organic manure, offsetting chemical fertiliser requirement.

The Nitrates Action Programme emphasises the importance of knowledge transfer to ensure that farmers fully understand how best to protect the natural waters on or close to their lands. Furthermore, opportunities for large savings on farms through better grassland management, improved timing and application of fertiliser and the use of Low Emission Spreading Equipment have been taken into account in order to gain efficiencies and maximise the use of our resources.

In addition, my Department provides a range of supports for diverse farming practices under a number of areas including Horticulture, TAMS (Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes), Organics and GLAS (Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme)

In order to measure our achievements at both farmer and food business level, Origin Green enables Ireland’s food industry to measure our sustainability credentials. For farmers, this involves the participation in Bord Bia’s Sustainable Assurance Schemes.

While continuing to explore the future development of the diverse agri-food sector in Ireland, I will continue to base my policies and approaches on the best science and research available in order to enhance and maximise the continued economic, social and environmental sustainability of our natural resources.

Beef Exports

Questions (70)

Clare Daly

Question:

70. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the initiatives he has taken to open up Irish beef to the Iranian market particularly in view of the crisis in the sector. [13916/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Total Irish agri-food exports to Iran in 2017 were around €11.5 million, the majority of which (€10.25 million) was accounted for by dairy exports. According to the CSO, 26 tonnes of beef were exported to Iran in 2017, but there have been no export of sheepmeat to-date.

The role of my Department is to open up markets for the industry and it is then up to the industry, with the support of my Department and Bord Bia, to avail of these opportunities. However, the actual levels of exports will depend on a range of factors, including global supply and demand dynamics, currency fluctuations and individual customer requirements.

A veterinary health certificate for the export of beef from Ireland to Iran was agreed in March 2013. DAFM officials participated in a successful trade mission to Iran and Turkey in April 2016. While the trade mission was primarily dairy-focused, DAFM officials had the opportunity to meet with their Iranian counterparts in order to progress and ultimately agree sheepmeat access to the Iranian market and also to explore other common areas of interest. Access for sheepmeat was officially announced in October 2016. Therefore these markets are open at present but the resumption of exports is a matter for the industry.

Limited or no exports of meat to Iran can be explained by a combination of unfavourable trading conditions, cheaper supplies of beef from Brazil and of lamb from Australia to the Iranian market, and financial barriers. Work is on-going within the EU to devise measures to overcome financial barriers to trade between the EU and Iran.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (71)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

71. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the contingencies being operationalised and supports that will be in place to safeguard farmers here and the agrifood sector for all scenarios including a no-deal hard Brexit by the 29 March 2019 deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13979/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

While ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement is still the Government's primary focus, and preparations are continuing for all scenarios, greater priority has been given for quite some time now to preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

In order to help mitigate the impacts on the sector I have introduced a number of budgetary measures over the last three years aimed at improving competitiveness, and developing market and product diversification. These include low cost loan schemes to assist in on-farm and agri business cost effectiveness, and additional funding to Bord Bia and Teagasc to support market and product diversification.

More recently, I have held bilateral discussions with Commissioner Hogan on the impact of Brexit, including in the margins of the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels last week. I again stressed the need to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and processors, particularly in respect of the beef sector, which will face very serious challenges in the event of the UK proceeding with the kind of tariff arrangements it announced recently. Options here include traditional market supports and exceptional aid provisions under the Common Agricultural Policy's Single Common Market Organisation regulation, as well as increased flexibility under State Aid regulations. Commissioner Hogan reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond, and we will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.

In the meantime my Department, as part of the whole-of-Government approach to Brexit, has been very active in preparing for a potential no-deal Brexit. We have been working with other departments and agencies to have the necessary arrangements in place to carry out import controls at our ports and airports in order to allow the Department to fulfil its legal obligations as efficiently as possible, while also ensuring the minimum possible disruption to trading arrangements.

We have also sharpened our communications to include an enhanced Brexit page on the Department’s website, the circulation of focused Trader Notices to the individual agri sectors, the establishment of a Brexit Call Centre and increased use of social media.

Meat Processing Plants

Questions (72)

Denis Naughten

Question:

72. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to the second Topical Issue of 6 March 2019, the steps he is taking to ensure the integrity of beef carcase grading in meat plants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13975/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1184 of 20 April 2017 governs the monitoring of carcase classification, carcase presentation and weighing. It specifies how on-the-spot checks shall be carried out in all slaughterhouses applying compulsory carcase classification. According to this legislation, on-the-spot checks shall be performed in all slaughterhouses which slaughter 150 or more bovine animals per week at least twice every three months. The legislation stipulates that each on-the-spot check shall relate to at least 40 carcasses selected at random.

Carcase classification controls in slaughter plants are carried out by a dedicated team of specialist staff in the Beef Carcase Classification Section within my Department. Classification Officers conduct unannounced, on-the-spot inspections in 32 beef slaughtering plants to ensure that Carcase Classification is carried out in accordance with EU Regulations.

The number of inspections conducted annually significantly exceeds the legal requirement set down in EU legislation. In 2018, my Department conducted almost 550 inspections. This is an average of 17 inspections per factory per year, which significantly exceeds the legal requirement of 8 inspections per year. At each inspection, an average of 85 carcasses were inspected for correct classification and carcase presentation. The legal requirement is 40 carcasses per inspection. I am satisfied therefore that the existing system significantly exceeds the requirements of the relevant EU Regulations.

Regarding new technologies, my Department is supervising an industry-led trial which is examining the latest technology in terms of cameras and lights for use in the mechanical classification system. The trial is examining the effectiveness of using digital cameras and LED lights as part of the carcase classification system. This trial is in an advanced stage. Subject to confirmation of its effectiveness, I would expect the industry to implement this technology in due course although this is a matter for commercial consideration. I have also asked my officials to explore the incorporation of factory machine records available on a daily basis, into the controls system.

Beef Industry

Questions (73)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

73. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the price beef farmers are receiving for their produce from factories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13993/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am very conscious of the role played by the beef sector in sustaining the rural economy and rural communities across Ireland.

I am aware of the current challenges facing beef farmers, with a sustained period of low prices, following on from additional costs last year arising from the unprecedented weather events. However, as Minister, I cannot intervene directly in any commodity price; cattle prices are a matter for the processing industry and the farmers who supply it. Cattle prices are influenced by a variety of factors such as the level of consumer demand, production levels and exchange rate differences. Brexit also presents enormous challenges and ongoing uncertainty for the entire beef sector.

I am deeply committed to fully supporting and developing Ireland’s beef sector. I am strongly of the view that the existing range of supports available to suckler farmers, together with ensuring access to as many markets as possible, both for live animals and beef exports, are appropriate for the continued development of the sector.

While beef farmers obviously benefit from the full range of Pillar I direct payments and Rural Development Programme schemes, the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is currently the main support specifically targeted for the suckler sector. This scheme provides Irish beef farmers with some €300 million in funding over the current Rural Development Programme (RDP) period. It is an agri-environmental measure to improve the environmental sustainability of the national suckler herd by increasing genetic merit within the herd.

In addition, I recently launched the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), a targeted support of €20 million for suckler farmers specifically aimed at further improving the economic and environmental efficiency of beef production. The pilot has been designed to be as straightforward as possible. Beef farmers will also be significant beneficiaries of the €23m in additional funding provided to the ANC scheme this year.

One of the unique strengths of the agri-food sector has been the shared vision for the sustainable development of the sector in Food Wise 2025. It is crucial that we all continue to work together. I have highlighted the need for stakeholders to recognise their inter-dependency, and to increase the strength of all links in the supply chain, including Beef Producer Organisations.

Officials in my Department are currently engaging extensively with stakeholders in relation to Beef Producer Organisations, which have the potential to help strengthen the position of the primary producer in the supply chain.

Trade Agreements

Questions (74)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

74. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding the latest Mercosur talks; the steps he is taking to protect farmers here by ensuring that beef does not form an element of a final Mercosur deal at EU level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13981/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The EU-Mercosur negotiations have not progressed sufficiently to the point where any agreement is likely to be concluded soon. Apart from the well-known sensitivities in relation to Mercosur beef access to the EU market, other outstanding issues include cars, rules of origin, geographical indications, maritime services and EU dairy access to the Mercosur market. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for May 2019, with the most recent having taken place in Buenos Aires two weeks ago, again without announcement of any major breakthroughs.

From an Irish perspective, we have been very consistent in urging caution in the approach to these negotiations. Our position has been reiterated many times, for example by myself and by my colleague, Minister Andrew Doyle, at Council of Agriculture Ministers meetings, and by other Ministers in the relevant EU Trade policy fora. It has also been done through direct contacts with Commissioners Hogan and Malmstroem, and by the Taoiseach at European Council and through his own direct contacts, including with Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and French President Emmanuel Macron. I have also been working closely with Member State colleagues in this regard, and have remained in close contact with Commissioner Hogan on the matter.

In an overall sense there is undoubtedly a need for continued vigilance in relation to the conduct of these trade negotiations. I will continue to insist that they are handled appropriately, and in a manner that safeguards the interests of the Irish and European beef sector. I also continue to stress that full account must be taken of the findings of the Commission’s own assessment of the cumulative impact of trade deals on the agri food sector, and the potentially very damaging impact of Brexit on an already delicately balanced EU beef market.

Beef Industry

Questions (75)

Willie Penrose

Question:

75. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether, regardless of events in the House of Commons, the beef sector has already taken a massive hit from Brexit; the way in which he plans to resurrect the sector before irreversible damage is done to same; and the steps that will be taken to save the sector in the event of a Brexit extension leading to a stalemate scenario with ongoing instability. [13960/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am very conscious of the role played by the beef sector in sustaining the rural economy and rural communities across Ireland.

I am aware of the current challenges facing beef farmers, with a sustained period of low prices, following on from additional costs last year arising from the unprecedented weather events.

I am deeply committed to fully supporting and developing Ireland’s beef sector. I am strongly of the view that the existing range of supports available to suckler farmers, including targeted supports under the BDGP and BEEP schemes; together with my Department's work to ensure access to as many markets as possible, both for live animals and beef exports, are appropriate for the continued development of the sector.

Brexit also presents enormous challenges and ongoing uncertainty for the entire beef sector. I and my officials have been working very hard for quite some time to sensitise other Member States and the European Commission to the potentially very severe impacts of a no-Deal Brexit on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sector. This has included a detailed analysis of the possible impact of the proposed UK tariff schedule in the event of a no-Deal Brexit, as announced by the UK Government on 13 March.

The schedule announced by the UK provides for zero-rated tariffs in a range of areas including fruit and vegetables, live animals and all products exported to Northern Ireland. However, the UK has indicated that it will impose tariffs on sensitive products, including beef.

I have emphasised that specific supports would be required in order to deal with these negative impacts. The threat faced by the Irish agri-food and fisheries sector is explicitly recognised in the Commission’s own communication on contingency planning.

I have held a series of bilateral discussions with Commissioner Hogan on this issue, including en marge of the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels last week. I stressed the need to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and processors, including through traditional market supports and the exceptional aid provisions under the CAP's Single Common Market Organisation regulation, as well as increased flexibility under State Aid regulations. Commissioner Hogan has reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland, and we will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.

The terms and conditions of any aid package will be announced in due course, in the event that a disorderly Brexit occurs. Obviously I very much hope that this outcome, with all its associated negative impacts for Ireland, the EU and the UK itself, will be avoided by the acceptance by the UK Parliament of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Brexit Supports

Questions (76)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

76. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the provisions in place to facilitate the agrifood sector in the aftermath of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13992/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I have said on many occasions that there is no upside to Brexit, particularly in the agri-food sector.

In order to help mitigate the potential impacts on the sector I have introduced a number of budgetary measures aimed at improving competitiveness, and developing market and product diversification. These included a series of low cost loan schemes to assist in on-farm and agri business cost effectiveness, and additional supports to Bord Bia and Teagasc to support market and product diversification in order to help reduce our exposure to the UK market.

I have also had a series of bilateral discussions with Commissioner Hogan on the impact of Brexit, including en marge of the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels last week. Commissioner Hogan has reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland, and we will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.

While ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement is still the Government's primary objective, preparations are underway for a no-deal Brexit.

My Department has been working with other departments and agencies to have the necessary arrangements in place for import controls at our ports and airports in order to allow the Department to fulfil its legal obligations as efficiently as possible, while also ensuring the minimum possible disruption to trading arrangements.

The Department has also sharpened its Brexit communications strategy through an enhanced Brexit page on its website, the circulation of focused Trader Notices, the establishment of a Brexit Call Centre and dedicated email address, and increased use of social media such as TWITTER. I would urge operators in the sector to engage with these services as we continue our preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit.

Coillte Teoranta Activities

Questions (77)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

77. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures he is undertaking to ensure that Coillte is researching and engaging in continuous cover forestry practices in view of the benefits for carbon sequestration, biodiversity, employment and amenities across the national estate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13924/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The day-to-day management of its forest estate is a matter for, and the responsibility of, Coillte as a commercial State body. Coillte was established under the Forestry Act 1988 and one of its functions is to carry on the business of forestry and related activities on a commercial basis and in accordance with efficient silvicultural practices. I have therefore asked Coillte to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to its use of Continuous Cover Forestry practices.

I am well aware of the benefits of Continuous Cover Forestry which is why I recently introduced a Continuous Cover Forestry Scheme under the Forestry Programme. This was a key commitment under the mid-term review of the Programme and was launched as part of a suite of biodiversity measures by my Department recently. I am delighted to say that all the measures have been very well received and that application rates have exceed our expectations.

Under this Scheme, forest owners receive support for the management of suitable conifer, broadleaf and mixed conifer/broadleaf forests in accordance with this alternative approach. Under this approach the forest canopy is maintained at one or more levels without clearfelling.

Continuous Cover Forestry opens up the canopy through thinning enabling more light to reach the forest floor, thereby allowing plants to re-colonise the forest area, increasing biodiversity. In addition, thinning opens up forest areas for walking and other recreational uses and improve the visual amenity of forests. Thinning, by opening up tree crowns to light, also promotes higher levels of tree seed production which favours natural regeneration systems and close-to-nature silviculture.

I am delighted to note the interest in this Scheme so far. We already have over half our anticipated applications which augurs well for the success of this important forest management measure.

Brexit Supports

Questions (78)

Bobby Aylward

Question:

78. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to make beef farming a viable option for farmers in the context of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13919/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am very conscious of the role played by the beef sector in sustaining the rural economy and rural communities across Ireland.

I am aware of the current challenges facing beef farmers, with a sustained period of low prices, following on from additional costs last year arising from the unprecedented weather events.

I am deeply committed to fully supporting and developing Ireland’s beef sector. I am strongly of the view that the existing range of supports available to suckler farmers, including targeted supports under the BDGP and BEEP schemes; together with my Department's work to ensure access to as many markets as possible, both for live animals and beef exports, are appropriate for the continued development of the sector.

Brexit also presents enormous challenges and ongoing uncertainty for the entire beef sector. I and my officials have been working very hard for quite some time to sensitise other Member States and the European Commission to the potentially very severe impacts of a no-Deal Brexit on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sector. This has included a detailed analysis of the possible impact of the proposed UK tariff schedule in the event of a no-Deal Brexit, as announced by the UK Government on 13 March.

The schedule announced by the UK provides for zero-rated tariffs in a range of areas including fruit and vegetables, live animals and all products exported to Northern Ireland. However, the UK has indicated that it will impose tariffs on sensitive products, including beef.

I have emphasised that specific supports would be required in order to deal with these negative impacts. The threat faced by the Irish agri-food and fisheries sector is explicitly recognised in the Commission’s own communication on contingency planning.

I have held a series of bilateral discussions with Commissioner Hogan on this issue, including en marge of the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels last week. I stressed the need to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and processors, including through traditional market supports and the exceptional aid provisions under the CAP's Single Common Market Organisation regulation, as well as increased flexibility under State Aid regulations. Commissioner Hogan has reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland, and we will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.

The terms and conditions of any aid package will be announced in due course, in the event that a disorderly Brexit occurs. Obviously I very much hope that this outcome, with all its associated negative impacts for Ireland, the EU and the UK itself, will be avoided by the acceptance by the UK Parliament of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Live Exports

Questions (79)

Martin Kenny

Question:

79. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which he plans to deal with the issues relating to exporting dairy calves; his plans in order to ensure that Ireland does not have a similar problem in 2020 in view of the continued expansion of the dairy herd; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13987/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Live exports are a critical part of Ireland’s livestock industry. They play a significant role in stimulating price competition and providing an alternative market outlet for farmers. The Department facilitates this trade, recognising its critical importance to the agri-food sector, while ensuring that live animal exports meet the highest welfare standards. In 2018, live exports of cattle increased by over 30% to 246,000 head compared to 2017. This growth trend has continued into 2019, with live exports totalling 58,000 up to early March – a 35% increase on the same period in 2018.

However, I am cognisant of the challenges within the live export trade.

In terms of ferry capacity, my Department officials continue to meet with operators to ensure that the greatest facilitation possible is afforded to livestock exporters - however, ultimately it must be recognised that decisions will be made on a commercial basis. With regard to cancelled crossings on account of inclement weather, this, unfortunately, is outside of my control.

My officials are in on-going communication with Irish exporters with regard to the need for co-operative management between each other to ensure that the lairage capacity at Cherbourg is optimised. The development of additional lairage capacity is a commercial issue. The live export sector may wish to consider developing an additional lairage in Cherbourg, or engaging with owners of existing facilities there to explore the potential for additional capacity.

Notwithstanding this, there has been significant engagement with the French authorities regarding this matter. In September 2018, officials from my Department visited Cherbourg to discuss the capacity issue with the French authorities and local lairage operators. Last month, Bord Bia met with local lairage operators, while Department officials held a meeting with the IFA and French Embassy representatives.

I also raised the issue last month with the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian and last week, I discussed the matter with my French counterpart, Didier Guillaume, at the EU Agrifish Council meeting in Brussels. I should make it clear that the facilitation of the French Ministry relates to the approval of private sector developments.

Following this engagement, I am happy to report that, in recent weeks, the French authorities have approved an increase of the holding capacity of the Qualivia lairage in Cherbourg. This will provide for additional daily capacity for 400 animals. Based on current ferry sailing schedules, this provides increased capacity of some 1,200 animals per week.

The Deputy can rest assured that I will continue to advocate on behalf of our exporters with regard to this issue.

Brexit Supports

Questions (80)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

80. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the discussions he has had with his EU counterparts regarding the impact WTO tariffs will have on Irish exports to the UK if a hard Brexit occurs; and if there will be a special fund available to prepare farmers and industry for same. [9384/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I and my officials have been working very hard for quite some time to sensitise other Member States and the European Commission to the potentially very severe impacts of a no-Deal Brexit on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sector. This has included a detailed analysis of the possible impact of the proposed UK tariff schedule in the event of a no-Deal Brexit, as announced by the UK Government on 13 March.

The schedule announced by the UK provides for zero-rated tariffs in a range of areas including fruit and vegetables, live animals and all products exported to Northern Ireland. However, the UK has indicated that it will impose tariffs on sensitive products, including beef.

I have emphasised that specific supports would be required in order to deal with these negative impacts. The threat faced by the Irish agri-food and fisheries sector is explicitly recognised in the Commission’s own communication on contingency planning.

I have held a series of bilateral discussions with Commissioner Hogan on this issue, including en marge of the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels last week. I stressed the need to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and processors, including through traditional market supports and the exceptional aid provisions under the CAP's Single Common Market Organisation regulation, as well as increased flexibility under State Aid regulations. Commissioner Hogan has reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland, and we will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.

The terms and conditions of any aid package will be announced in due course, in the event that a disorderly Brexit occurs. Obviously I very much hope that this outcome, with all its associated negative impacts for Ireland, the EU and the UK itself, will be avoided by the acceptance by the UK Parliament of the Withdrawal Agreement.