Bord na gCon Administration

Questions (949)

Alan Kelly

Question:

949. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will request an organisation (details supplied) to provide a copy of its organisational structure; the positions vacant in the organisation; the reason these positions are vacant; and if a copy of all previous organisational structures of the organisation since 2010 will be provided. [12739/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry. Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The question raised by the Deputy is an operational matter for Bord na gCon and therefore the question has been referred to Bord na gCon for direct reply to the Deputy.

Bord na gCon Administration

Questions (950)

Alan Kelly

Question:

950. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is satisfied with the corporate governance structures in place for the past two years in an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12740/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Bord na gCon is a commercial state body, established under the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 chiefly to control greyhound racing and to improve and develop the greyhound industry. Bord na gCon is a body corporate and a separate legal entity to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The Board of Bord na gCon, comprising of seven members - a Chairman and six ordinary members, is responsible for leading and directing the activities of the organisation. Bord na gCon is required to act in accordance with it’s statutory obligations, the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies and any other directives issued by Government or by my Department. Each year the Chairman of Bord na gCon provides me with a comprehensive report covering a range of governance issues in accordance with the requirements set out in the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies. Bord na gCon is audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General and it also has an Internal Auditor as well as an Internal Audit Committee.

Bord na gCon's annual accounts for 2017, audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General, were published on 28th June 2018 while the draft Bord na gCon accounts for 2018 were submitted to my Department on 28th February 2019.

Officials from my Department meet with Bord na gCon bi-annually to consider issues of mutual interest, including corporate governance.

The Greyhound Industry Bill continues to pass through the Houses of the Oireachtas, with the legislation now at Committee Stage in the Dáil. The legislation once enacted, will further enhance Bord na gCon's governance structures.

Animal Slaughtering Standards

Questions (951, 953, 958, 960, 961)

Denis Naughten

Question:

951. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if mechanical grading machines' tolerance for fat class is at least 88% of the predictions should be within one sub-class of the reference panel score; if more modern grading machines can provide a more accurate assessment of fat class; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12749/19]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

953. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to increase the frequency of inspections of mechanical grading machines in view of the identification of the failure by his Department on 21 occasions in the past two years; if he will require the compilation of daily reports on the operation of the equipment and reports of the machines miscalculating grades as is required by his UK counterpart; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12772/19]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

958. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if UK compliance standards as outlined during the second Topical Issue matter of 6 March 2019 are applied to mechanical grading machines operated in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12777/19]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

960. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 535 to 537 of 12 February 2019, the figures for 2015, 2016 and to date in 2019, respectively for the number of machines found to be operating outside the approved tolerance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12767/19]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

961. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to the second Topical Issue matter of 6 March 2019, the number of inspections in the 23 plants with mechanical grading and in the nine plants without mechanical grading, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12768/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 951, 953, 958, 960 and 961 together.

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/1182 lays down the guidelines for authorisation of an automated grading method for beef. It specifies the conditions and minimum requirements for authorisation. It states that to estimate the performance of the automated grading method, the results of the automated grading method shall, for each validated carcass, be compared to the median of the results of the jury. The resulting accuracy of the grading by automated grading methods is established by using a system of points.

With a view to authorisation, the automated grading methods should achieve at least 60 % of the maximum number of points for both conformation and fat cover. There is no mention of 88% accuracy in the legislation.

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1184 of 20 April 2017 governs the monitoring of carcase classification, carcase presentation and weighing. In 2016, my Department conducted approximately 600 unannounced, on-the-spot inspections in 32 factories on classification. In 2015, there were approximately 550 inspections conducted. In 2018, my Department conducted almost 550 unannounced, on-the-spot inspections. The controls applied in Ireland are significantly in excess of those required under EU Law.

To look at mechanical versus manual, in 2018 there were 412 inspections conducted in the 23 Mechanical plants and 136 conducted in the 9 manual plants. This is an average of 17 inspections per factory per year across all inspections, which significantly exceeds the legal minimum requirement of 8 inspections per year.

There were 11 instances in 2016 and 5 instances in 2015 when factories were instructed to revert to manual classification when a machine was found to be working outside of tolerance by my inspectors. To date in 2019, 1 machine has been placed in test mode. Machines operating outside of tolerance are required to be serviced, and the calibration is checked by staff from my Department before mechanical grading recommences.

The EU legislation 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.

In the UK and in Northern Ireland, it is individual factories, not the competent authority, who conduct performance checks on the mechanical classification machines on a daily basis.

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 at an advanced stage and I intend to publish a report of the trial from an independent expert supervising the trial in due course.

Subject to confirmation of effectiveness, the Department would expect the industry move to implement this technology in due course though this is a commercial decision. The Department is satisfied that the existing system is compliant with the relevant EU Regulations.

Animal Slaughtering Standards

Question No. 953 answered with Question No. 951.

Questions Nos. 954 to 956, inclusive, answered with Question No. 952.

Questions (952, 954, 955, 956)

Denis Naughten

Question:

952. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the conclusions drawn from the testing of new beef grading technology in meat plants supervised by his officials in February 2018; if the grading technology will be upgraded as a result of the testing of this new technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12771/19]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

954. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 535 to 537, inclusive, of 12 February 2019, the subclass tolerance and other tolerance thresholds for mechanical grading machines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12773/19]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

955. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to the second Topical Issue matter of 6 March 2019 and Parliamentary Question No. 171 of 27 February 2019, if he will he review the policy of not manually regrading carcases that have already gone through the mechanical grading machines in advance of identifying a breach of the tolerances in view of the fact that farmers could be losing €140 per head due to mechanical grading errors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12774/19]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

956. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to review the complexity of the beef carcass classification scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12775/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 952 and 954 to 956, inclusive, together.

The rules governing Beef Carcase Classification are set down in EU legislation - (REGULATION (EU) No 1308/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL). It requires slaughterhouses to take measures to ensure that all carcasses of bovine animals aged eight months or more are classified and identified in accordance with the Union scale.

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/1182 lays down the guidelines for authorisation of an automated grading method for beef. It specifies the conditions and minimum requirements for authorisation. For each validated carcass, the median of the results of the members of the jury shall be considered as the correct grade of that carcass. To estimate the performance of the automated grading method, the results of the automated grading method shall, for each validated carcass, be compared to the median of the results of the jury. The resulting accuracy of the grading by automated grading methods is established by using a system of points.

According to the legislation, the automated grading methods should achieve at least 60% accuracy for both conformation and fat cover. However, results in Ireland for classification were at much higher levels, for example, in 2018 with 91.8% accuracy for conformation and 84.8% for fat.

The legislation states that carcasses shall be classified by assessment of Conformation and Fat cover and that Member States are authorised to subdivide each of the classes into a maximum of three subclasses.

Regarding the testing of 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. This trial is at an advanced stage and I intend to publish a report of the trial from an independent expert supervising the trial in due course. Subject to confirmation of effectiveness, my Department would expect the industry to move to implement this technology in due course though this is a commercial decision. My Department is satisfied that the existing system is compliant with the relevant EU Regulations.

Controls carried out by my staff are set in legislation. 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.

Authorised classification officers conduct a classification exercise on a minimum of 100 carcasses at each inspection to determine that the performance of a classification machine is within tolerance. The unannounced checks verify the on-going accuracy of the automated beef grading methods by using a system of points and limits defined in EU legislation.

Under the current system of monitoring the performance of the machine, officials check the overall performance of the carcass grading machine. The checks carried out by officials are system checks with officials looking for systematic errors rather than at individual cases.

The following revised reply was received on 9 April 2019

In my reply I stated the following: "However, results in Ireland for classification were at much higher levels, for example, in 2018 with 91.8% accuracy for conformation and 84.8% for fat." The latter figure of 84.8% is incorrect. This is a typographical error and should read 94.8%.

Question No. 953 answered with Question No. 951.
Questions Nos. 954 to 956, inclusive, answered with Question No. 952.

Animal Slaughtering Standards

Question No. 958 answered with Question No. 951.

Question No. 959 answered with Question No. 957.

Questions Nos. 960 and 961 answered with Question No. 951.

Question No. 962 answered with Question No. 957.

Questions (957, 959, 962)

Denis Naughten

Question:

957. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will issue a tender for software to facilitate each farmer receiving the digitised image of each animal further to comments by Minister Doyle during the second Topical Issue matter of 6 March 2019 and in view of the fact that his Department has direct access to the digitised image of each carcase that goes through a mechanical grading machine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12776/19]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

959. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the length of time his Department holds the digitised image of each carcase that goes through a mechanical grading machine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12778/19]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

962. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 239 of 6 March 2019, the reason his Department is now refusing access to the data in view of comments (details supplied) to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture and Food on the introduction of mechanical grading; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12769/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 957, 959 and 962 together.

The mechanical grading machines are the property of each individual meat plant and the images generated by these machines are therefore retained on the factory's own computer system. My Department does not own or hold these images and therefore is not in a position to grant or refuse access to them.

Question No. 958 answered with Question No. 951.
Question No. 959 answered with Question No. 957.
Questions Nos. 960 and 961 answered with Question No. 951.
Question No. 962 answered with Question No. 957.

Beef Exports

Questions (963)

Pat Deering

Question:

963. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the beef export markets that demand a 30-month slaughter limit on animals; the effect non-compliance would have for those markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12792/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Irish beef exports increased from €2,405 million in 2017 to €2,439 million in 2018. This is according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) trade statistics data with exports to around 70 countries throughout the world.

Beef exports within the EU do not require veterinary health certificates. In this case, any age requirements are a commercial matter between the processor and the purchasing customer.

However, beef exports to non-EU third country markets take place on the basis of bilaterally or EU- agreed veterinary health certificates, or alternatively on general meat certificates.

The following third country markets have veterinary health certificates with a 30-month age limit for Irish beef:

- China

- Japan

- Iran

- Algeria

- Saudi Arabia

- Turkey

- Qatar

- Switzerland (for selected tariff codes)

Egypt and Singapore both have a 30-month age limit on bone-in beef only.

Non-compliance with these conditions could result in the plant concerned being removed from any lists to export to that market or the closure of the market.

Beef Industry

Questions (964)

Noel Rock

Question:

964. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is monitoring the situation of Brazilian authorities relocating their embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the threat by the Arab countries to cut their meat trade with Brazil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12796/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has responsibility for international diplomatic relations and for monitoring geo-political developments.

However, my officials continue to monitor global developments in the meat industry both in conjunction with the Irish meat industry and with Bord Bia, and through on-going contacts with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and its Embassy network, and through relevant media sources.

GLAS Issues

Questions (965)

Martin Kenny

Question:

965. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will intervene with an organisation (details supplied) under the terms of GLAS that has failed to provide a certificate of membership to a person resulting in a suspension of GLAS and possible clawback of moneys; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12803/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved into GLAS 2 with a contract commencement date of 1 January 2016 and has received all payments in respect of scheme years 2016 and 2017.

This application was rejected from the scheme due to non-compliance with the Rare Breed action as the individual was not a member of the relevant society in 2017 as required under the terms and conditions of GLAS. The person named requested a review of the decision and was informed by letter of 21 January 2019 that the review was unsuccessful. This letter also advised the person named of the option of appealing this decision to the Agriculture Appeals Office.

GLAS Payments

Questions (966)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

966. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if GLAS payments will be expedited for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12807/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The person named was approved into GLAS 2 with a contract commencement date of 1 January 2016 and has received all payments in respect of scheme years 2016 and 2017.

An issue arose in relation to the request by the applicant for a transfer of the GLAS contract which has delayed the 2018 Advance payment. Department officials are actively working to finalise the requested change of client in this case.

Once this case clears validations the 2018 advance payment will be made. GLAS payments are issuing on a weekly basis.

Credit Availability

Questions (967)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

967. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if information (details supplied) will be provided regarding the future growth loan scheme. [12810/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Future Growth Loan Scheme has been developed by my Department and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in partnership with the Department of Finance, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and the European Investment Fund (EIF). It will be delivered through participating finance providers and make up to €300 million of investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including farmers and the agri-food & seafood sectors.

This is a long-awaited source of finance for young and new entrant farmers, especially the cohort who do not have high levels of security. It will also serve smaller-scale farmers, who often do not have the leverage to negotiate for more favourable terms with their banking institution.

The loans will be competitively priced at 4.5% or lower, will be for terms of 8 to 10 years and will support strategic long-term investment in a post-Brexit environment. Further details on eligible investments will be made available later this week.

There is a minimum loan amount of €100,000 for SMEs or €50,000 for primary agriculture. The maximum loan amount is €3,000,000 and loans of under €500,000 will be made on an unsecured basis.

There will be €50 million to €60 million available initially for farmers, within an overall agri-food package of €120 million. Should demand exceed these levels, this can be reviewed.

The Scheme features a two-stage application process whereby initial application is made through the SBCI website. Successful applicants are issued an eligibility reference number which can then be used in an application to one of the participating finance providers. Approval of loans is subject to the finance providers’ own credit policies and procedures. Standard documentation including a loan application form will be required. A business plan will not be required for loans up to €250,000.

Further information including a FAQ document may be accessed on my Department’s website via the following link: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/agri-foodindustry/agri-foodandtheeconomy/agri-foodbusiness/futuregrowthloanscheme/.

SBCI held an open call earlier this year inviting banks and other lenders to become lending partners. SBCI advise that a period of due diligence, which will included the EIF, is now nearing completion. I have urged SBCI to operationalise the Scheme as soon as possible. The Scheme will run for three years from its launch date and I expect to make further announcements in this regard shortly.

Greyhound Industry

Questions (968)

Willie Penrose

Question:

968. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to a report (details supplied); his views on whether the Greyhound Racing Bill 2018 currently before Dáil Éireann will deal with the regulatory issues therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12908/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Greyhound Industry Bill continues to pass through the Houses of the Oireachtas, with the legislation now at Committee Stage in the Dáil.

This legislative framework, when passed, will greatly strengthen the existing regulatory framework through the establishment in primary legislation of a statutorily independent sanctioning regime to conduct hearings into alleged breaches of the racing code.

The Bill specifically addresses doping, integrity and fair play through a comprehensive range of enabling provisions allowing Bord na gCon to make regulations to deal with doping control and the conduct of racing; these progressive measures should allay any public concerns that may exist on industry regulation.

In relation to the comments made in the article on betting, any patterns of irregular betting that are brought to the attention of Bord na gCon are investigated and if necessary, the results of any investigation are forwarded to An Garda Síochána.

The comments made by SIS reflect an historic view of greyhound racing. The fact that nine race meetings are now broadcast from Irish greyhound tracks, up from the initial four meeting in 2016, demonstrates that the quality and integrity of Irish greyhound racing is gaining wide acceptance in the UK and other jurisdictions.

Exports Growth

Questions (969)

James Browne

Question:

969. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to increase beef and lamb exports to Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12952/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Total Irish agri-food exports to Iran in 2017 were around €11.5 million according to the CSO, the majority of which (€10.25 million) was accounted for by dairy exports.

A veterinary health certificate for the export of beef from Ireland to Iran was agreed in March 2013 and for sheepmeat in October 2016. According to the CSO, 26 tonnes of beef were exported to Iran in 2017, but there have been no sheepmeat exports to date.

Limited or no exports 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.

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.