I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 143 together.
Deer farming in Ireland is an alternative enterprise which is dependent on the dynamics of supply and demand which affect all agricultural production systems. In 1996, there were approximately 500 deer farms with 20,000 deer in Ireland, but numbers have declined sharply since that time.
Today, there are only a small number of farmers in Ireland actively supplying deer for meat production, which cater primarily to specialised niche markets. The sector is reliant upon producers and companies ensuring that a market exists for their product, an objective which Bord Bia assists in by identifying and developing potential market outlets.
There was some recent growth in game (venison) market during 2016, for example, with around 764 deer slaughtered for this market, but this declined to 271 deer for 2017, with 133 deer slaughtered so far in 2018.
Growth in the past was achieved as a result of improved distribution for game meats, especially in supermarkets. Game and exotic meats historically occupy a premium, niche segment of the meat market. Whilst there are opportunities to compete with the larger premium segment of the red meat/poultry categories, it is important to note that demand is seasonal, with the greatest concentration of retail shelf space dedicated to game in the Winter/Christmas period.
My Department has approved one factory for the slaughter of deer in Ireland, and two game-handling plants. There may also be outlets for processing of venison in Local Authority approved plants, but this would be a matter for the Local Authority concerned.
There is no reliance on wild deer in the sector currently.
In terms of lamb trade, while sheepmeat export volumes were down by 4% in 2018 compared to 2017, exports by values were up 2% to €315m. Factory gate prices were also higher than in 2017. The medium term prospects for the lamb sector both at national, EU and global level suggest that market prospected are generally good.
Meat consumption overall is expected to increase globally by 15% in the next decade due to population increases. My Department is currently seeking to increase market access for sheepmeat including applications for access to the Chinese and Japanese markets.