Tax Clearance Certificates

Questions (120)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Question:

120. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason his Department is not accepting the contractors tax clearance certificate of a person (details supplied) which was in date at the time of the application and completion of the works and which has led to a delay in issuing payment. [20174/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Following the resolution of a number of issues that arose with the payment claim submitted in this case, payment was approved on 2 May 2019.

Grant Aid

Questions (121)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Question:

121. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason a group (details supplied) in County Cork was not successful in securing grant aid. [20176/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The tender referred to was submitted in respect of my Department's Call for Proposals, Forestry Promotion.

This call received a huge response with 40 applications submitted. A detailed, considered and robust evaluation of these applications was carried by an Evaluation Committee, and all were scored on the basis of criteria outlined to applicants at the outset. The standard of the 15 successful applications was very high and unfortunately many proposals, including the one mentioned by the Deputy, did not succeed on this occasion.

The group has been informed in writing of its marking in order to inform them of how they measured relative to the successful projects.

Agriculture Scheme Applications

Questions (122)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

122. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of a forestry licence application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20197/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

This forestry licence application is currently under consideration.

There has been detailed correspondence with the registered forester in relation to this application and a Natura Impact Assessment was submitted to the Department on 16th April, 2019. This has been referred to the Department's ecologist for assessment and a decision on the application will issue when all environmental and other considerations have been considered in full.

Agriculture Scheme Payments

Questions (123)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

123. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if an application for restoration of GLAS and single farm payments will be facilitated in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20213/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

In relation to the Basic Payment Scheme, an official from my Department will contact the person named directly.

In relation to GLAS, the GLAS 1 application of the person named was terminated for non- compliance with one of the core scheme requirements - to attend a GLAS training course before the end of the second full calendar year in the scheme. It is open to the person named to appeal this decision by submitting an appeal to the Agriculture Appeals Office.

Basic Payment Scheme Payments

Questions (124)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Question:

124. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if assistance will be provided in resolving the issue of payment of the 2018 basic farm payment scheme to a farmer (details supplied) whose 2019 payment is in order [20243/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

An application containing some of the land concerned was lodged on behalf of the person named using the on-line reference number application facility prior to the closing date for the receipt of applications under the 2018 Basic Payment Scheme.

My Department is in the process of reviewing the documentation submitted and related matters. An official of my Department will make direct contact with the authorised agent of the person named to progress this case.

Animal Welfare Bodies

Questions (125)

Seán Fleming

Question:

125. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if animal and dog sanctuaries can re-home dogs without the consent of the owner who leaves dogs in for fostering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20244/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Animals may only be seized and rehomed in accordance with the law. The relevant legislation relating to dogs is the Control of Dogs Act 1986. Section 11 of that Act provides for local authorities to rehome stray dogs within the circumstances set down in that section. That legislation is the responsibility of my colleague Seán Canney T.D., Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development.

Animal sanctuaries do not operate under an express legislative basis and their powers accordingly are limited. They do not have the right to rehome animals without the consent of the owner. Furthermore, Section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001 makes it an offence for a person who has no right to deprive the owner of property.

Land Issues

Questions (126)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

126. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will address a matter regarding a passage (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20270/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The records of the former Irish Land Commission (ILC) are being examined by officials in my Department to ascertain if the information sought for the lands detailed is available.

I will respond directly to the Deputy when the matter has been fully researched.

EU Funding

Questions (127)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

127. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the estimated annual cost and seven year cost if the Exchequer were to step in and fill the deficit caused by the proposed cut to the pillar 2 rural development programme allocation of Ireland and the specific reduction in respect of current LEADER programme funding for the next CAP following the publication of the 2018 MFF proposals for the 2021-2027 period; the maximum co-financing rate permitted for member states under LEADER for the amount of national Exchequer funding permitted over a full CAP and RDP window; the EU and national Exchequer co-financing rates; and the individual amounts under the 2014-2020 LEADER Programme. [20280/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The European Commission has proposed, as part of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021 – 2027, that funding for the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020 should be set at €365 billion. This equates to a cut of approximately 5% to the overall CAP budget, representing a cut of 3.9% to Pillar 1, Direct Payments and 15% to Pillar 2, Rural Development. At least 5% of Rural Development funds are to be ring-fenced for LEADER.

I have been very firm in my view that I do not accept the proposed 5% cut to the CAP budget post-2020, and there is strong consensus on this issue amongst my Member State colleagues. I have been strongly advocating for the CAP budget to be restored to current levels for the EU 27 for the next programming period, and I will continue to work towards achieving this objective until agreement on the MFF post 2020 proposals has been reached. In addition, my colleague Minister Michael Ring, whose Department has overall responsibility for the LEADER programme, continues to strongly defend the LEADER budget as the MFF post-2020 negotiations progress. The retention of an adequate budget for the CAP post-2020 is a key priority for Ireland.

The negotiations on the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2021-2027 are ongoing, and are running in parallel with the negotiations on the CAP post-2020. It is worth pointing out that agreement on the budgetary allocations under the next MFF is ultimately decided by Ministers for Finance and Heads of State and Government. A decision on the MFF proposals is not expected to be reached until Autumn 2019 at the earliest.

With regard to the co-financing rates, the total allocation for the LEADER 2014–2020 Programme is €250 million. The EU portion of this funding is provided under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) at the rate of 62.8% of total costs (€157 million). The remaining 37.2% (€93 million) in matching funding is provided by the Exchequer.

Under the current EU Regulations, the maximum permitted contribution to LEADER expenditure from the EAFRD is 80%. The European Commission has proposed to leave this percentage unchanged under the proposals published for the 2021-2027 period.

Until the MFF proposals are agreed, it will not be clear what the precise financial implications for the CAP and the Rural Development Programme will be. Based on the proposals, and this has been publically indicated by Commissioner Hogan, some €47 million per annum in additional national funding would be required for Ireland to make up the proposed shortfall under Pillar II funding, and my Department would concur with that estimate.

GLAS Issues

Questions (128)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

128. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if it is possible under EU parameters to introduce an area based agri-environmental scheme. [20281/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

GLAS, the current agri-environment scheme, which is fully subscribed includes area-based actions such as 270,000 hectares of Low Input permanent Pasture action, 63,000 hectares of Traditional Hay Meadows and the active management of over 230,000 hectares of commonage.

Agri-environment policy is included in the CAP reform negotiations currently under way and any future schemes will be dependent on the outcome of these negotiations.

Beef Industry

Questions (129)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

129. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has submitted a request to the EU Commission for exceptional or market disturbance aid for beef farmers in view of the significant decrease in prices and incomes since Autumn 2018 from the impact of Brexit. [20282/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The agrifood sector is of critical importance to the Irish economy, and its regional spread means it underpins the socio-economic development of rural areas in particular. Brexit has the potential to have a very significant impact on the sector, given its unique exposure to the UK market, which accounted for 38% (€5.2 billion) of agrifood exports last year.

There are on-going discussions with the Commission regarding the difficulties which would face Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and the assistance that might be required for its agriculture food and fishery sectors. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.

I have held a number of discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit on the sector. I have stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on agrifood and fisheries, including through traditional market supports and exceptional aid under the CAP's Single Common Market Organisation regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013), as well increased flexibility under State Aid regulations.

However, it is also important to acknowledge that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

In light of the on-going depressed market prices, I have, in discussions with Commissioner Hogan and my EU counterparts, said that I believe that the deployment of exceptional measures under the CMO Regulation, to provide targeted aid to farm families who have suffered a sustained reduction in returns from the market, is now required. I made an intervention to this effect at the April meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers, and my officials have followed this up with a detailed submission, which is under consideration by Commission officials.

One of the unique strengths of the agrifood 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 the development of Beef Producer Organisations.

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 beef farmers under the RDP, 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.

Cereal Sector

Questions (130)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

130. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he remains satisfied regarding the future prospects for the cereal growing sector with a view to ensuring a reliable income for those involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20287/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Tillage is an integral component of our Agrifood industry, making a significant contribution to overall National agricultural output. The Irish cereals sector plays a significant role in the supply of high quality grain to the feed industry, providing raw material for the food and drinks industry and is a key source of seed production.

Cereals are therefore a significant stakeholder in our agrifood industry from a supply/food safety and sustainability viewpoint and the continuance of an efficient and viable tillage sector in Ireland is vital.

I acknowledge that cereal production has experienced difficult challenges in recent times.

However, my Department continues to provide significant supports to the sector. The Tillage Capital Investment Scheme under TAMS II covers specific areas of investment for tillage farmers with over €7.7 million distributed to over 700 tillage farmers to date.

Early last year I announced that the EU Protein Aid Scheme was extended for 2018, resulting in over €2.83m being paid to growers to date. This important Scheme, worth €3m to growers, is available again in 2019 providing support to growers who opt for growing eligible protein crops.

My Department also provides a high quality official crop seed certification scheme to the industry, in addition to an extensive national crop variety evaluation programme, providing invaluable information to growers on the latest varieties available.

The agrifood sector continues to explore the development of novel markets for cereal products seeking to improve competitiveness and sustainability with Irish malting barley demand increasing with growth

in demand for Irish whiskey.

I can assure the Deputy that I remain fully committed to this important sector which plays a key role in the development of the wider agrifood industry.

Pigmeat Sector

Questions (131)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

131. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he remains satisfied regarding the future viability of the pig and pigmeat industry with particular reference to access to existing or alternative markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20288/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Irish pigmeat exports increased by 5% year-on-year in 2018 to a value of €832m.

Ireland’s largest export market by far was the UK, accounting for roughly 57% (worth €471m) of the total, followed by China, at 9%. Trade to other international third party markets reached €117m, or 14% of total export value. The rest of the EU accounted for 19% of export totals.

The growth in the pig sector must also be viewed over the medium term coming at as it did from a base of €330 million export value in 2010 the sector has shown exceptional growth – clear evidence of the accurate direction and focus of the Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025 strategies.

Chinese imports are expected to increase compared to 2019 potentially providing a boon for exporting slaughter plants. Indeed, pig prices have increased markedly since the beginning of this year as increasing import demand from China has materialised over the last couple of months. However, longer term much will depend on the continuing African Swine Fever (ASF) situation both within China, and across the EU, trade relations between China and the US and competition from peer-exporting nations.

Expanding access into new markets such as Mexico and further penetration of lucrative markets like Japan and South Korea will be the primary goals for Irish exporters this year. The recent announcement of new Agriculture Attaché posts in Mexico City, Tokyo and Seoul underlines my Department's commitment to pursuing and further developing opportunities for Irish pigmeat exporters in international markets.

These and other factors such as farm viability, global market share and a stable animal health situation will determine sectorial prosperity in the years to come. The Department will continue to work closely with the sector and, by focusing on insight-led growth strategies, to take advantage of opportunities for Irish pig meat exporters on international markets.

Agrifood Sector

Questions (132)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

132. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he continues to make preparations to capitalise on Brexit with particular reference to the opening up of new opportunities for Irish food production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20289/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agrifood exports is an ongoing and central component of the strategic development of the agrifood sector, as evidenced by its placement right at the centre of Food Wise 2025. It is of particular relevance given the need to diversify our markets and to reduce our exposure to traditional destinations such as the UK.

My Department continues to open new markets and deepen trade with existing markets for Irish food. The highlight of 2018 in this respect was the decision of the Chinese authorities to open their market to Irish beef imports. Other notable achievements during 2018 were agreements with Qatar and Kuwait which allowed for the importation of Irish beef, sheepmeat and poultry to their markets, and, most recently, in April 2019 we saw the opening of the Ukrainian market for Irish beef and pork.

Trade Missions play an important role in opening up new opportunities for Irish food production. I have led a number of such missions over the last two years in particular, and the first one of 2019 took place in March, when I led a mission to Turkey which was primarily focused on live trade. The remainder of 2019 will see missions to China next week, Japan and South Korea in June, and Algeria and Egypt in November. These destinations are in keeping with Bord Bia's recent market prioritisation exercise, which has identified the markets that provide the greatest potential for an increase in Irish agrifood exports.

Overall, agrifood exports to countries outside the EU have increased from around €2.7 billion to €3.6 billion in the period 2014 to 2018. This represents very rapid growth of 36% in that four-year timeframe. It remains the case, nonetheless, that exports to the UK comprise a very significant proportion of Irish agrifood exports.

Agrifood Sector

Questions (133, 142)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

133. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans for the future development of the agrifood sector notwithstanding Brexit or other challenges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20290/19]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

142. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which he expects agricultural exports to develop and grow in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20299/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 142 together.

Food Wise 2025 is the latest ten-year strategy agreed by a range of stakeholders, both public and private, and adopted by the Government as an overarching policy for the Irish agrifood sector. It underlines the agrifood sector’s unique and special position within the Irish economy and provides an enabling strategy that will allow the sector to develop.

Food Wise includes more than 400 specific recommendations, spread across the cross-cutting themes of sustainability, innovation, human capital, market development and competitiveness, as well as specific sectorial recommendations.

If these recommendations are implemented, the expert committee that drew up the Food Wise 2025 Strategy believed that significant value growth projections are achievable by 2025, including increasing the value of agrifood exports by 85% to €19 billion.

In July 2018, I launched the third annual progress report of Food Wise 2025: Steps to Success 2018. This showed that by 2017 exports had increased by 15.9% compared to the baseline.

As of Q4 2018, of the 375 detailed actions in Food Wise which were due to commence by 2018 or are on-going actions; 79% have been achieved or substantial action has been undertaken and a further 21% have commenced and are progressing well. This represents a 6% increase in target achieved over Q3 2018.

Market Development was identified as one of the key five cross-cutting themes in Food Wise 2025. It highlights the need to ensure that Irish products are targeted at the right markets and the right segments within these markets. The global evolving market environment presents enormous potential opportunities for the agrifood sector.

As part of the Department’s Action Plan on intensifying international market access, a new online international market access tool was developed. This portal provides information across some of the major export sectors of dairy, meat, seafood and live animals.

I have also led a series of agrifood trade missions to key existing and emerging markets; my Department's agricultural attaché network in key Embassies has been increased and I have provided significant additional resources to Bord Bia's marketing and promotion efforts.

Preparations for a new agrifood strategy to 2030 are underway. Its development will involve an analysis of a range of cross-cutting themes and the various sub-sectors of the agrifood industry, a formal public consultation and the establishment of a committee to develop the strategy.

Without pre-empting the work of the new committee and the eventual content of the 2030 strategy, it is clear that the cross-cutting themes contained in Food Wise (environmental sustainability, market development, competitiveness, innovation, and human capital) will continue to be highly relevant. It is likely that environmental sustainability, and in particular, the contribution that agriculture can make to climate action, will need significant consideration and prominence.

In this regard, my Department is currently developing a climate roadmap for the agrifood sector to ensure that the future development of the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, will be built upon and contribute fairly to Ireland’s climate targets. This will form a key element of the 2030 strategy. In parallel, my Department is also working on the development of Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan, which in line with the EU Commission’s proposals, will recognise that greater environmental and climate ambition is required. These important strategic and policy developments at national and European levels, as well as others in areas such as international trade and the bioeconomy, will inform the 2030 strategy.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (134)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

134. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he can encourage mitigation action in respect of greenhouse gases with the minimum impact on agriculture production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20291/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The long term vision for the agricultural sector is an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. Our policy approach is based on three principles:

- Reducing agricultural emissions

- Increasing carbon sequestration; and

- Displacing and substituting fossil fuel and energy intensive materials.

My Department and its agencies are actively engaged with the farming sector on a large range of measures and actions focused on the environment and climate, which support the continued transition towards a low carbon economy and society.

Measures include:

- The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) aimed at lowering the intensity of GHG emissions by improving the quality and efficiency of the national beef herd and the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP);

- The Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme;

- The Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS); and

- Initiatives such as Origin Green, Quality Assurance schemes and Knowledge Transfer Schemes;

all of which contribute to lowering the carbon footprint of the sector.

In terms of sequestration our most significant intervention is the national afforestation programme. My Department invests heavily in the Afforestation Scheme to encourage landowners to establish forests on their land. The Government has recently approved significant improvements in grant and premium rates under the agroforestry and forestry for fibre options.

The third strand to our climate policy approach focuses on energy efficiency, energy provision from biomass and other agricultural products and on the use of wood products to substitute for materials associated with high levels of emissions such as steel, concrete and fossil fuels. I have recently made available €10 million under TAMS for energy measures.

My Department continues to review options that will enable our farmers to transition to a low carbon economy. While the mitigation potential for agriculture is limited, agriculture can and must play a key role in contributing to Ireland’s climate change and energy targets in the years ahead.

Artisan Food Sector

Questions (135)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

135. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which opportunities continue to exist for the artisan food sector; the degree to which the industry has grown over the past three years; his expectations for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20292/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Artisan and speciality food businesses can have a significant impact on local rural economies and their importance is acknowledged in the Food Wise 2025 strategy. Growth prospects for the sector are positive overall, driven by increased consumer interest in the provenance of food, environmental concerns, health and a desire to support the local economy.

The Small Business food sector is segmented into Artisan, Established, Startups and In-Growth types. Approximately 500 food companies with a turnover of €100,000 to €3.5m are registered with Bord Bia for supports and services. These owner-managed businesses produce high-end products with a strong focus on the domestic market.

A range of supports for this particular sector is available from my Department and relevant State agencies, including Bord Bia, Teagasc and Local Enterprise Offices. Supports include marketing assistance, specialised training, capacity building and promotion.

In May 2018, my colleague Minister Ring and I launched the ‘LEADER Food Initiative’ for artisan/small food and beverage businesses, which provides for funding of up to €15m up to 2020, from my Department, through the Rural Development Programme (RDP). This funding is being delivered using the LEADER methodology. It supports new and existing artisan, micro and small food producers to address emerging challenges through investment in areas such as capital equipment, market development, competitiveness and innovation.

To-date, 21 projects with a total value of more than €800,000 have been approved under the scheme.

Fishing Industry

Questions (136, 145)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

136. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which fishing remains a viable option for fishing dependent families nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20293/19]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

145. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he remains satisfied regarding the future of the fishing industry notwithstanding the potential impact of events outside his control with particular reference to those families traditionally dependent on the fishing industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20302/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 145 together.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) provides the framework for the long term conservation and sustainability of fish stocks around our shores and is designed to ensure the long term sustainability of fishing in Ireland and throughout EU waters. Key features of this policy include setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas to deliver maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2015, where possible, and in all cases by 2020 as well as a discards ban (Landing Obligation) that was phased in over the period 2015 to 2019.

Setting fishing levels on the basis of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) is an essential aspect of the policy. Fishing opportunities are agreed on an annual basis at the EU Fisheries Council of Ministers on the basis of a proposal produced by the European Commission that is informed by the best available scientific advice. The Common Fisheries Policy specifically calls for the progressive restoration and maintenance of populations of fish stocks above biomass levels capable of producing MSY. To achieve this, the FMSY exploitation rate shall be achieved for all stocks by 2020 at the latest. This should ultimately lead to healthy fish stocks, higher quotas for both Irish and EU fishermen and lead to more sustainable fishing patterns.

Scientific information on the state of the fisheries exploited by the Irish fleet is compiled by the Marine Institute and is published in the Stock Book each year. The most recent Stock Book, 2018, contains 74 stocks that are subject to the scientific advice of the Marine Institute. From the 74 stocks, 32 are assessed as being sustainably fished in 2018. This number has grown every year since 2013. This in turn leads to the number of stocks being over fished declining from 22 in 2014 to 16 in 2018.

The 2018 December Fisheries Council, at which quotas for 2019 were agreed, showed a rebuilding of many stocks. I was pleased that the scientific advice supported large increases in a number of stocks of importance such as Haddock (+20%), Hake (+28%) and Megrims (+47%) in the Celtic Sea. The overall increase of 30% in whitefish quota will provide improved fishing opportunities for whitefish fishermen all around our coasts. This shows that the many years of intensive, industry led conservation measures are paying off.

Provided we can successfully navigate the potential difficulties arising from Brexit, in cooperation with our EU27 partners, I am confident that we will be able to ensure the continued economic viability of our fishing fleet and fish processors, thereby supporting the families and communities that depend on a vibrant fishing industry.

Agrifood Sector

Questions (137, 143)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

137. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which the market for venison remains viable here and abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20294/19]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

143. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which the prospects for the lamb trade remain positive for the foreseeable future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20300/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

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.

Brexit Supports

Questions (138)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

138. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he expects to achieve sufficient support at EU level to offset the effect of Brexit on the agrifood sector both pre and post the event; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20295/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The agrifood sector is of critical importance to the Irish economy, and its regional spread means it underpins the socio-economic development of rural areas in particular. Brexit has the potential to have a very significant impact on the sector, given its unique exposure to the UK market, which accounted for 38% (€5.2 billion) of agrifood exports last year.

There are on-going discussions with the Commission regarding the difficulties which would face Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and the assistance that might be required for its agriculture food and fishery sectors. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.

I have held a number of discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit on the sector. I have stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on agrifood and fisheries, including through traditional market supports and exceptional aid under the CAP's Single Common Market Organisation regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013), as well increased flexibility under State Aid regulations.

However, it is also important to acknowledge that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

In light of the on-going depressed market prices, I have, in discussions with Commissioner Hogan and my EU counterparts, said that I believe that the deployment of exceptional measures under the CMO Regulation, to provide targeted aid to farm families who have suffered a sustained reduction in returns from the market, is now required. I made an intervention to this effect at the April meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers, and my officials have followed this up with a detailed submission, which is under consideration by Commission officials.

One of the unique strengths of the agrifood 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 the development of Beef Producer Organisations.

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 beef farmers under the RDP, 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.

Brexit Supports

Questions (139)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

139. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he anticipates to be in a position to offer adequate support directly or via the EU, for farm families with particular reference to those most likely to be challenged by Brexit or other global events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20296/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The agrifood sector is of critical importance to the Irish economy, and its regional spread means it underpins the socio-economic development of rural areas in particular. Brexit has the potential to have a very significant impact on the sector, given its unique exposure to the UK market, which accounted for 38% (€5.2 billion) of agrifood exports last year.

There are on-going discussions with the Commission regarding the difficulties which would face Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and the assistance that might be required for its agriculture food and fishery sectors. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.

It is clear that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the impact of the UK tariff regime as announced would have had a significant impact on beef prices and on beef farm incomes, as a result.

I have held a number of discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit on the sector. I have stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on agrifood and fisheries, including through traditional market supports and exceptional aid under the CAP's Single Common Market Organisation regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013), as well increased flexibility under State Aid regulations.

It is important to acknowledge that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

In light of the on-going depressed market prices, I have, in discussions with Commissioner Hogan and my EU counterparts, said that I believe that the deployment of exceptional measures under the CMO Regulation, to provide targeted aid to farm families who have suffered a sustained reduction in returns from the market, is now required. I made an intervention to this effect at the April meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers, and my officials have followed this up with a detailed submission, which is under consideration by Commission officials.

One of the unique strengths of the agrifood 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 the development of Beef Producer Organisations.

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 beef farmers under the RDP, 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.

Beef Industry

Questions (140)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

140. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he envisages beef producers to be able to rely on a steady income from their enterprise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20297/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The agrifood sector is of critical importance to the Irish economy, and its regional spread means it underpins the socio-economic development of rural areas in particular.

The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is currently the main support specifically targeted for the suckler sector, which provides Irish beef farmers with some €300 million in funding over the current Rural Development Programme (RDP) period. I also announced an additional €20 million in funding in Budget 2019, through the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP).

My Department has rolled out a range of schemes as part of the €4 billion Rural Development Programme (RDP), 2014 - 2020. In addition to the BDGP, other supports which are available for suckler and sheep farmers under Pillar II of the CAP include GLAS, ANCs and Knowledge Transfer Groups. Suckler farmers also benefit from the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening payments under CAP Pillar I. According to National Farm Survey, already suckler farmers receive support equivalent to approximately €500 per suckler cow on average.

However, it is also important to acknowledge that the past few months have been very difficult for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year in 2018 due to weather conditions. There has been a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices since last autumn, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

Brexit has the potential to have a very significant impact on the sector, given its unique exposure to the UK market, which accounted for 38% (€5.2 billion) of agrifood exports last year. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit, which would have catastrophic implications for the agriculture food and fisheries sectors in terms of tariff barriers, continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.

There are on-going discussions with the Commission regarding the difficulties which would face Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and the assistance that might be required for its agriculture food and fishery sectors. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.

In light of the on-going depressed market prices, I have, in discussions with Commissioner Hogan and my EU counterparts, said that I believe that the deployment of exceptional measures under the CMO Regulation, to provide targeted aid to farm families who have suffered a sustained reduction in returns from the market, is now required.

One of the unique strengths of the agrifood 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 the development of Beef Producer Organisations.

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 beef farmers under the RDP, 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.

Dairy Sector

Question No. 142 answered with Question No. 133.

Question No. 143 answered with Question No. 137.

Questions (141)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

141. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which he expects the dairy sector to grow in the future, notwithstanding international events and increased competition on world markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20298/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Irish dairy market, following on from broader EU and international trends, is currently in a much improved position compared to the relatively recent past during the period 2014 - 2016. Of course, my Department remains extremely vigilant in monitoring the current market and emerging trends, particularly as we approach the peak period for Irish milk production.

In 2018, Ireland exported dairy products to approximately 140 countries totalling over €4.5 billion worth of produce, an increase of over 5% by volume compared to 2017 and another year of strong performance by the Irish dairy sector. I expect this increase in exports of Irish dairy products to continue into the future with increasing emphasis on third country markets.

Irish dairy products have a highly rated and hard earned reputation in terms of quality, safety and sustainability, and this gives them a competitive edge in markets over the world. My Department, in conjunction with other stakeholders, including the Irish dairy companies and agencies such as Bord Bia, are playing a key role in building the market for Irish dairy with intensive Ministerial trade mission programmes and other promotional work. Against the backdrop of our efforts to significantly increase dairy output and grow the sector, export market diversification is of the utmost importance, and this is particularly true in the context of a post-Brexit scenario.

The long-term fundamentals of the global dairy market are strong, with growing global demand projected from emerging economies with increasing middle classes. Whilst significant challenges have continued throughout recent years, in particular price volatility, there is confidence that the Irish and EU dairy sector is well placed to gain from the opportunity presented by expanding global demand.

My Department has engaged and will continue to engage with stakeholders on these and other important issues.

Question No. 142 answered with Question No. 133.
Question No. 143 answered with Question No. 137.

Poultry Industry

Questions (144)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

144. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he expects the poultry sector to grow in the short, medium and long-term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20301/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The value of Irish poultry exports in 2018 increased by 1% to over €280 million according to CSO trade data, with the United Kingdom accounting for some 78% of this figure in value terms. Other EU markets now account for almost 10% of Irish exports, with France leading the way followed closely by Finland and the Netherlands. Exports to third country markets now amount to around 10% of export totals, with South Africa showing the biggest growth for Irish exporters: this market grew by 14% in 2018 to just under €30 million.

Irish production again hit record levels in 2018, with 98.6 million birds slaughtered in export-approved plants, an increase of 3.3% compared to 2017, with most of the increase evident in broiler and duck production. Overall, Irish poultry production is expected to exceed the 100 million mark in 2019.

While the outlook for 2019 remains broadly positive, the sector continues to face challenges particularly the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit. In this context, the pursuit and development of new markets is an ongoing and central component of the strategic development of the agrifood sector, as evidenced by the market development theme of Food Wise 2025. My Department is currently actively pursuing market access for poultry in a number of third country markets, including South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia.

As in other meat sectors, global trade conditions will be crucial in determining the outlook for the Irish poultry sector over the medium to longer term.