Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, answered orally.

Milk Prices

Questions (9)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

9. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he will take to ensure dairy farmers receive a higher price for their milk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20157/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As the Deputy will be aware, in accordance with competition law, neither I nor my Department have any role in determining market prices for any commodity, nor can I intervene in this particular process.

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.

The average milk price paid to Irish dairy farmers in 2018 was 34 cent per litre, which was higher than the average price paid across the EU of 33 cent per litre. More recently, the milk price in Ireland has been higher than 33 cent per litre during the early months of 2019.

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.

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 activities.  I will lead a trade mission to China next week, including a significant focus on dairy.

While the overall dairy sector is now in a much better place, particularly at the farm gate, the issue of intervention stocks of skimmed milk powder overhanging that particular market was a cause for concern in recent years, arising from the significant recourse to this market measure for skimmed milk powder across the EU from September 2015. However, figures from the European Commission show that there are now only approximately 1,000 tonnes of SMP remaining in public intervention stock, with over 370,000 tonnes having been sold out of intervention since March 2018.

I have clearly stated previously, at Council of Ministers meetings and elsewhere, that it is imperative that the Commission remains vigilant in monitoring the market and that it has contingencies in place in the event of market volatility re-emerging in relevant markets, particularly the raw milk, butter and skimmed milk powder markets.

Whilst challenges have continued throughout recent years, in particular price volatility, the long-term fundamentals of the global dairy market are strong, and the Irish dairy sector is well placed to gain from the opportunity presented by expanding global demand.

Bord Bia Strategy

Questions (10)

Peter Burke

Question:

10. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the supports provided to Bord Bia to assist agrifood businesses to find new markets for its produce in the context of a potentially changed trading environment post-Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20100/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Bord Bia’s work is essential to achieving success in the growth of our food and drinks exports, as well as to the development of new and existing markets. This work has taken on greater importance as we seek to reduce our exposure to the UK market in the light of the UK's decision to leave the European Union. In discharging its responsibilities, Bord Bia works closely with my Department, and this ongoing co-operation has in turn been reflected strongly in the whole-of-Government approach to Brexit.

I have allocated significant additional funding to Bord Bia since the UK referendum in 2016 in the context of managing the response of my Department and its agencies to Brexit. Following an initial allocation of €1.6m in 2016 to allow Bord Bia to directly assist food companies with significant exposure to the UK market, further increases in funding over the last three budgets have brought Bord Bia's total allocation in 2019 to €46.6 million. This represents a 60% increase in funding for marketing and promotion of our food offering since 2014.

The initiatives undertaken by Bord Bia include direct advice to companies through individual consultations and seminars, and the completion of a Market Prioritisation exercise that has identified the best prospects for sustainable growth across individual sectors and is also now informing both Bord Bia's and my own Department's activities for example in relation to Trade Mission destinations.

Bord Bia has also undertaken its largest ever recruitment drive to employ 29 new staff to support the growth of Ireland’s food and drink industry. Most of these positions will be based across continental Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia, with some also located in Bord Bia’s Dublin office. Indeed, this expansion mirrors my own Department's plans to expand its presence internationally.

Brexit Supports

Questions Nos. 12 to 14, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions (11)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

11. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the supports he has in place for the agrisector if new UK tariffs are imposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19046/19]

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.

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 therefore 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.

Questions Nos. 12 to 14, inclusive, answered orally.

Beef Industry

Questions (15)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

15. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which his attention has been drawn to the difficulties facing the beef sector, with particular reference to the need to ensure the sustainability of farm families in the context of competition in the market place, a reasonable return for their produce and a means of addressing the issue of peaks and valleys in the industry which causes difficulty in relation to forward planning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20112/19]

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.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Eligibility

Questions (16)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

16. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason for the change in land eligibility for farmers in cases in which land qualified under biophysical constraint (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20094/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Under the current Rural Development Regulation (and subsequent amendments under the Omnibus Regulation), Member States  were required to change the approach to the designation of land under the Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme.  Previously my Department had been identifying eligible areas using a range of socio economic indicators such as family farm income, population density, percentage of working population engaged in agriculture, and stocking density.

From 2019, eligible areas must instead be designated using the following list of bio-physical criteria:

- Low  temperature

- Dryness

- Excess soil moisture

- Limited soil drainage

- Unfavourable texture and stoniness

- Shallow rooting depth

- Poor chemical properties

- Steep slope

In tandem with the process to designate relevant lands under these biophysical criteria process, Member States were also required to undertake a fine tuning process.  This process was required to identify areas where significant natural constraints were identified with reference to the above listed biophysical criteria, but where objective criteria, such as arable land use or stocking density levels, would indicated that these constraints have been overcome.

Finally, Member States could also identify areas for inclusion as Areas of Specific Constraint where it is necessary for land management to be continued in order to conserve or improve the environment, to maintain the countryside, to preserve the tourist potential of the area, or to protect the coastline.

There has been no change to the above elements of the process as set out in the Rural Development Regulation.  The completion of the work in this regard was a lengthy project, involving protracted technical engagements with DG for Agriculture and Rural Development and the Joint Research Centre in the EU Commission.  The technical process was completed in late 2018 and, at that time, further to a series of consultation meetings with key stakeholders, I published full details in relation to the outcome of the review project, which can be summarised as follows. 

The vast majority of land that was eligible under the existing Scheme remains eligible under the new approach.  Some  700 townlands that would have previously been eligible are not eligible  under the new designation.  Farmers impacted financially by this  change will receive a degressive phasing out payment in 2019 and  2020.  Over 2,000 townlands will now be eligible under the new approach and will be eligible to receive a payment for the first time in 2019.

Further to the completion of the redesignation process, my Department wrote to all farmers holding ANC lands advising them of the status of these lands under the 2019 ANC scheme and advised of their right to appeal this position.  An appeals process, overseen by an independently chaired Appeals Committee, is in place for any farmer who wishes to appeal the status of a particular townland in the 2019 ANC scheme.

Brexit Supports

Questions (17)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

17. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when he expects to receive a reply to his submission to the EU for a fund to support beef farmers in the wake of Brexit; the way in which he plans to administer such a fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20158/19]

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.

Live Exports

Questions (18)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

18. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the targets Bord Bia has for 2019 for live export of cattle for six months or more; the resources in place to ensure a reasonable number are delivered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20093/19]

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 agrisector, while ensuring that live animal exports meet the highest welfare standards.

In 2018, total live exports of cattle increased by over 30% to 246,000 head compared to 2017. This represented a value of €110 million to the Irish economy, according to Bord Bia. This growth trend has continued into 2019, with live exports of cattle totalling 163,000 up to the 28th April – a 28% increase on the same period in 2018.

My decision in 2017 to reduce the veterinary inspection fee payable on live exports of calves less than three months of age from €4.80 to €1.20 has brought greater equity to the inspection fee regime. Since then there has been continued growth in the export of calves, rising from 102,000 head in 2017 to 159,000 in 2018 – a 56% increase. According to the most recent Bord Bia figures for 2019, calf exports already stand at 123,000 head, with consignments to the Netherlands and Spain accounting for 50% and 31% of this trade, respectively.

This increase in trade is also apparent with regard to the export of non-calves (weanlings, stores and finished cattle), which are approximately 23% up on last year, according to Bord Bia’s most recent statistics.

My Department continues to prioritise efforts to deepen existing markets and gain access to new third country markets.

Just this week, my Department hosted a visit by a Turkish technical team, including officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and ESK (the Turkish Meat and Milk Board). The objective of the visit was to conduct an on-site fact-finding mission to evaluate the technical aspects of live animal and germinal product exports from Ireland to Turkey. This is yet another welcome development as we seek to re-establish our live trade with Turkey. The visit by Turkish officials follows on from my March meeting with my Turkish counterpart, Dr Bekir Pakdemirli, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry.

I also welcome the progress made on live exports to Algeria arising from the technical meetings between my Department and Bord Bia and their counterparts in Algiers last week. The Algerian authorities have agreed in principle to move from a joint breeding, slaughter and fattening certificate to 3 separate certificates. In addition, there is agreement for the maximum age of breeding animals to be raised from 36 to 42 months. My technical experts will now move quickly to oversee the changes to the health certificates for live exports so that they can be forwarded to our Algerian colleagues for their imprimatur prior to the commencement of the revised trade conditions.

With regard to other third country markets:

- A number of consignments of cattle have left for Libya in recent weeks, the most recent on the 3rd of May, carrying approximately 2,400 head.

- In April, my Department reached agreement with the Egyptian authorities on three proposed health certificates for the export of fattening, slaughter and breeding cattle. 

- I met with the Kazakh Ambassador in late March to discuss new health certification for the trade of live animals to Kazakhstan. Progress was made in relation to opening the Kazakh market.

With regard to animal welfare, my Department maintains robust oversight of live trade, through a comprehensive legislative framework, and in my recent meetings with exporters, I have stressed the importance of high animal welfare standards. Irish legislation on sea transport is recognised by the European Commission as being among the most effective and stringent legislation in force on transport by sea.  With regard to road transport, the Department does not approve journey logs from exporters for any live export where the destination country has an orange or red weather alert in place, or where a significant part of the transit route goes through an orange or red alert area. This is in addition to the annual ban on road transport of livestock to Greece, North Africa and Turkey during the months of July and August.

Furthermore, my Department continues to proactively contribute to efforts to improve animal welfare standards during transport.  My Department is currently providing multiannual funding of €75,000 per year over four years to the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) towards the implementation of the second Action Plan of the OIE Platform on Animal Welfare for Europe, in relation to slaughter and transport, within Europe and between Europe and the Middle East and North Africa.

Animal Identification Schemes

Questions (19)

Martin Kenny

Question:

19. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which compulsory electronic tagging of lambs for slaughter improves traceability when livestock marts and meat processing factories are refusing to read tags electronically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19997/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

It is critical that Ireland as a major trading country has a robust identification and traceability system to ensure are our products have a viable future in the international marketplace.   A robust traceability system will support our continued efforts to gain new export markets for Irish sheep meat.

As the Deputy will be aware, the current national sheep identification system is widely acknowledged to be very complex, with an over reliance on the manual transcription of individual sheep identification numbers, leading to a capacity for the mis-recording of data that is essential in tracing an animal back to the holding of its origin. The extension of electronic identification will simplify the sheep tagging system by significantly reducing the record keeping requirements for sheep farmers moving sheep to livestock marts and slaughter plants operating as approved Central Points of Recording (CPRs). This will provide a more accurate and robust sheep traceability system in support of animal health and public health objectives and thus support the further development and sustainability of the sheep industry.

My officials are working very closely with marts and slaughter plants to ensure that as many of these premises as possible will operate as CPRs with effect from 1st June.  It is my understanding that the major sheep processing slaughter plants are making significant progress in this regard. Marts are similarly well disposed to operating as CPRs and are proactively engaging with the CPR process with a view to having facilities in place at the earliest opportunity.  I accept that the upgrading of mart facilities to CPR standards will be an incremental process and I expect that a significant number of marts will be in a position to operate as CPRs in a relatively short period.

Where it is not feasible for marts to upgrade their facilities to CPR requirements, farmers can continue to move sheep to these premises by either printing out the tag numbers of the sheep to be moved for attachment to the relevant dispatch document or by continuing to record the individual number of each sheep presented to a non-CPR mart on the dispatch document.

The extension of EID to all sheep will further enhance traceability across the sheep sector and will assist in the Government's efforts to maintain and expand the export markets for Irish sheep meat. I will be visiting China later this month and Japan in June to build on the efforts made to date in pursuing market access and increasing market opportunities in line with Food Wise 2025 and our response to Brexit.

Fish Farming

Questions (20)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

20. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number and location of fish farms around the country; the number of inspections at these fish farms each year since 2016; the reason for the decision to rescind a fish farm licence under section 68 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19126/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department’s records indicate 33 marine salmon farm licences and 25 land-based salmon hatcheries. In some cases, the licences provide for additional species. Marine salmon farms are located on the western seaboard off the coast of counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Kerry and Cork. Land-based salmon hatcheries are located in counties Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kilkenny, Louth, Mayo and Tipperary.

Finfish farms are inspected on a regular basis by my Department’s Marine Engineering Division. In 2016, there were 53 inspections, in 2017, there were 81 inspections and in 2018, there were 92 inspections.

I recently determined that the entitlement of MOWI Ireland to continue aquaculture operations under the provisions of Section 19(A)4 of the 1997 Fisheries (Amendment) Act for the culture of salmon in cages at a site at Deenish Island, Ballinskelligs Bay, Co. Kerry is discontinued due to the breach of condition 2(e) of the applicable licence which states that “the Licensee shall not harvest more than 500 tonnes (dead weight) of salmon in any one calendar year.”

The details are set out on my Department’s website.

An appeal against this determination may be made to the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board within one month beginning on the date of the publication of the decision. As the timeline for possible appeals remains open as part of a statutory process, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Programme for Government Initiatives

Question No. 22 answered orally.

Questions (21)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

21. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the programme for partnership Government commitment to seek recognition from the European Commission for forgotten farmers as a group with specific disadvantage under the national reserve in the same way that old young farmers are provided for. [20059/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Regulations governing the operation of the National Reserve include an optional provision whereby Member States may use the National Reserve to allocate new entitlements or give a top-up on the value of existing entitlements for persons who suffer from a specific disadvantage.

In the context of the discussions with the EU Commission in early 2015 regarding the inclusion of the group referred to as Old Young Farmers under the 2015 National Reserve, the Commission advised that the inclusion of groups under ‘Specific Disadvantage’ category  of the National Reserve would require individual approval at EU level.

The National Reserve in 2017 was established using funding derived from a linear cut to the value of all farmers’ entitlements. EU Regulations pertaining to the National Reserve provide that the two categories of ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant to farming’ must receive priority access to the Reserve.  In the context of the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government, Ireland consulted with the EU Commission regarding the possibility of including the Forgotten Farmer group under the specific disadvantage category of the 2017 National Reserve. The EU Commission confirmed that Member States could not use the proceeds of a linear cut to fund a specific disadvantage category of the National Reserve.

The Commission confirmed at the time that the only funding option for the specific disadvantage category was natural replenishment of the Reserve, such as from unused entitlements or the proceeds of clawback, but only after the two priority categories of ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant to farming’ had been catered for.

EU Regulation 2393/2017 (Omnibus Regulation) came into effect in January 2018 and introduced a new possibility for the inclusion of ‘Specific Disadvantage’ categories such as Forgotten Farmers into the National Reserve. From 2018 Member States may use the proceeds of a linear cut to fund ‘Specific Disadvantage’ categories of the Reserve, but only if a linear cut is required to fund the two priority categories of ‘young farmer’ and ‘new entrant to farming’ in that particular year.  As there was sufficient funding available in the National Reserve in 2018 and 2019 from natural replenishment of the fund in order to cater for the two priority categories, the issue of a linear cut did not arise.

Decisions in relation to the National Reserve, including the basis of funding the Reserve, are made in consultation with the Direct Payments Advisory Committee which comprises members of the main farming organisations, farm advisory and education services.

Question No. 22 answered orally.

Live Exports

Questions (23)

Pat Deering

Question:

23. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the details of recent progress in the development of live export markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20102/19]

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 agrisector, while ensuring that live animal exports meet the highest welfare standards.

In 2018, total live exports of cattle increased by over 30% to 246,000 head compared to 2017. This represented a value of €110 million to the Irish economy, according to Bord Bia. This growth trend has continued into 2019, with live exports of cattle totalling 163,000 up to the 28th April – a 28% increase on the same period in 2018.

My decision in 2017 to reduce the veterinary inspection fee payable on live exports of calves less than three months of age from €4.80 to €1.20 has brought greater equity to the inspection fee regime. Since then, there has been continued growth in the export of calves, rising from 102,000 head in 2017 to 159,000 in 2018 – a 56% increase. According to the most recent Bord Bia figures for 2019, calf exports already stand at 123,000 head, with consignments to the Netherlands and Spain accounting for 50% and 31% of this trade, respectively.

This increase in trade is also apparent with regard to the export of non-calves (weanlings, stores and finished cattle), which are approximately 23% up on last year, according to Bord Bia’s most recent statistics.

My Department continues to prioritise efforts to deepen existing markets and gain access to new third country markets.

Just this week, my Department hosted a visit by a Turkish technical team, including officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and ESK (the Turkish Meat and Milk Board). The objective of the visit was to conduct an on-site fact-finding mission to evaluate the technical aspects of live animal and germinal product exports from Ireland to Turkey. This is yet another welcome development as we seek to re-establish our live trade with Turkey. The visit by Turkish officials follows on from my March meeting with my Turkish counterpart, Dr Bekir Pakdemirli, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry.

I also welcome the progress made on live exports to Algeria arising from the technical meetings between my Department and Bord Bia and their counterparts in Algiers last week. The Algerian authorities have agreed in principle to move from a joint breeding, slaughter and fattening certificate to 3 separate certificates. In addition, there is agreement for the maximum age of breeding animals to be raised from 36 to 42 months. My technical experts will now move quickly to oversee the changes to the health certificates for live exports so that they can be forwarded to our Algerian colleagues for their imprimatur prior to the commencement of the revised trade conditions.

With regard to other third country markets:

- A number of consignments of cattle have left for Libya in recent weeks, the most recent on the 3rd of May, carrying approximately 2,400 head.

- In April, my Department reached agreement with the Egyptian authorities on three proposed health certificates for the export of fattening, slaughter and breeding cattle. 

- I met with the Kazakh Ambassador in late March to discuss new health certification for the trade of live animals to Kazakhstan. Progress was made in relation to opening the Kazakh market.

With regard to animal welfare, my Department maintains robust oversight of live trade, through a comprehensive legislative framework, and in my recent meetings with exporters I have stressed the importance of high animal welfare standards. Irish legislation on sea transport is recognised by the European Commission as being among the most effective and stringent legislation in force on transport by sea.  With regard to road transport, the Department does not approve journey logs from exporters for any live export where the destination country has an orange or red weather alert in place, or where a significant part of the transit route goes through an orange or red alert area. This is in addition to the annual ban on road transport of livestock to Greece, North Africa and Turkey during the months of July and August.

Furthermore, my Department continues to proactively contribute to efforts to improve animal welfare standards during transport.  My Department is currently providing multiannual funding of €75,000 per year over four years to the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) towards the implementation of the second Action Plan of the OIE Platform on Animal Welfare for Europe, in relation to slaughter and transport, within Europe and between Europe and the Middle East and North Africa.

Live Exports

Questions (24)

Peter Burke

Question:

24. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the recent progress in the development of live export markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20099/19]

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 agrisector, while ensuring that live animal exports meet the highest welfare standards.

In 2018, total live exports of cattle increased by over 30% to 246,000 head compared to 2017. This represented a value of €110 million to the Irish economy, according to Bord Bia. This growth trend has continued into 2019, with live exports of cattle totalling 163,000 up to the 28th April – a 28% increase on the same period in 2018.

My decision in 2017 to reduce the veterinary inspection fee payable on live exports of calves less than three months of age from €4.80 to €1.20 has brought greater equity to the inspection fee regime. Since then, there has been continued growth in the export of calves, rising from 102,000 head in 2017 to 159,000 in 2018 – a 56% increase. According to the most recent Bord Bia figures for 2019, calf exports already stand at 123,000 head, with consignments to the Netherlands and Spain accounting for 50% and 31% of this trade, respectively.

This increase in trade is also apparent with regard to the export of non-calves (weanlings, stores and finished cattle), which are approximately 23% up on last year, according to Bord Bia’s most recent statistics.

My Department continues to prioritise efforts to deepen existing markets and gain access to new third country markets.

Just this week, my Department hosted a visit by a Turkish technical team, including officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and ESK (the Turkish Meat and Milk Board). The objective of the visit was to conduct an on-site fact-finding mission to evaluate the technical aspects of live animal and germinal product exports from Ireland to Turkey. This is yet another welcome development as we seek to re-establish our live trade with Turkey. The visit by Turkish officials follows on from my March meeting with my Turkish counterpart, Dr Bekir Pakdemirli, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry.

I also welcome the progress made on live exports to Algeria arising from the technical meetings between my Department and Bord Bia and their counterparts in Algiers last week. The Algerian authorities have agreed in principle to move from a joint breeding, slaughter and fattening certificate to 3 separate certificates. In addition, there is agreement for the maximum age of breeding animals to be raised from 36 to 42 months. My technical experts will now move quickly to oversee the changes to the health certificates for live exports so that they can be forwarded to our Algerian colleagues for their imprimatur prior to the commencement of the revised trade conditions.

With regard to other third country markets:

- A number of consignments of cattle have left for Libya in recent weeks, the most recent on the 3rd of May, carrying approximately 2,400 head.

- In April, my Department reached agreement with the Egyptian authorities on three proposed health certificates for the export of fattening, slaughter and breeding cattle. 

- I met with the Kazakh Ambassador in late March to discuss new health certification for the trade of live animals to Kazakhstan. Progress was made in relation to opening the Kazakh market.

With regard to animal welfare, my Department maintains robust oversight of live trade, through a comprehensive legislative framework, and in my recent meetings with exporters, I have stressed the importance of high animal welfare standards. Irish legislation on sea transport is recognised by the European Commission as being among the most effective and stringent legislation in force on transport by sea.  With regard to road transport, the Department does not approve journey logs from exporters for any live export where the destination country has an orange or red weather alert in place, or where a significant part of the transit route goes through an orange or red alert area. This is in addition to the annual ban on road transport of livestock to Greece, North Africa and Turkey during the months of July and August.

Furthermore, my Department continues to proactively contribute to efforts to improve animal welfare standards during transport.  My Department is currently providing multiannual funding of €75,000 per year over four years to the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) towards the implementation of the second Action Plan of the OIE Platform on Animal Welfare for Europe, in relation to slaughter and transport, within Europe and between Europe and the Middle East and North Africa.