Animal Identification Schemes

Questions (260)

Michael Collins

Question:

260. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason the NBAS31B form has been removed from use by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28401/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The facility to record 'feedlot movements' on the AIM system, utilising a NBAS 31 B form, was introduced originally to assist in the establishment of stocking density for premia payments. The option to record this movement type is no longer required.

My Department therefore removed the 'feedlot option' for herds operating as 'bed and breakfast' or contract rearing operations on 1 June 2018 and now categorises such movements as “farm-to-farm” which reflects the actual event that takes place. With effect from that date, the option to apply for a Certificate of Compliance for 'movement of animals to another holding for feeding purposes' using a NBAS 31 B application form is no longer applicable. All applications received on or after 1 June 2018 for movement to a 'feedlot' are treated as an application for the movement of an animal(s) to another holding.

Keepers can apply online for a Certificate of Compliance to move an animal to another holding using agfood.ie online services or an approved farm software package. Alternatively, keepers can complete a form NBAS 31A (which is available on the Department’s website or from a Regional Veterinary Office) and submit it to the Cattle Movement Notification Agency in Clonakilty.

Common Fisheries Policy

Questions (261)

Catherine Martin

Question:

261. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason civil society groups have been excluded from the annual fisheries negotiations between Norway and the EU, including Ireland; if he will make representations to ensure that civil society is included in the negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28408/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Ireland has a limited interest in the annual EU/Norway consultations. Our primary concern is with regard to the use of Blue whiting, an important pelagic stock, in exchanges from which we receive little benefit. We do not get involved in TAC setting discussions given that we do not have any quota for the relevant stocks.

Officials from my Department form part of the overall EU delegation which includes representatives from other Member States and is headed by an official from the European Commission who have exclusive competence with regard to such consultations. Representatives from the fishing industry are also often present in the building as observers but do not attend either the EU coordination meetings or the consultations themselves.

In these circumstances, the inclusion of representatives from civil society groups in the same manner as those from the fishing industry would need to be agreed with the Commission and those Member States in particular who, unlike Ireland, do have a direct management interest in the stocks under discussion in the EU/Norway consultations.

Common Fisheries Policy

Questions (262)

Catherine Martin

Question:

262. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the fact that nine out of 16 TACs for shared stocks in 2019 decided during the Norway-EU fisheries consultations exceed ICES scientific advice; and if he will request the EU Commission to consult with Norway with the ICES TAC advice serving as an upper limit in line with the principles of good governance of the CFP Article 3 and the CFP target of sustainable rates of fishing by 2020 in view of the evidence. [28409/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Ireland has a limited interest in the annual EU/Norway consultations. Our primary concern is with regard to the use of Blue whiting, an important pelagic stock, in exchanges from which we receive little benefit. We do not get involved in TAC setting discussions given that we do not have any quota for the relevant stocks.

The European Commission has exclusive competence with regard to these consultations and its actions are governed by the Common Fisheries Policy (Regulation (EU) 1380/2013). As the Deputy states, that includes principles of good governance as set down in Article 3 of that Regulation. The Commission are also bound by Article 33 of the same regulation regarding the management of stocks of common interest with third countries such as Norway. This article states that the 'Union shall engage with those third countries with a view to ensuring that those stocks are managed in sustainable manner that is consistent with ...the objective laid down in Article 2(2). It is that article which contains the objective of reaching the maximum sustainable yield exploitation rate by 2020.

TAMS Eligibility

Questions (263)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

263. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the ceiling of €80,000 on the TAMS scheme for pig producers will be reviewed and extended to €500,000 due to the intensive nature of the business and the large investments required to fulfil animal welfare responsibilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28513/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The TAMS II budget is being monitored on a continual basis in view of the 26,000 applications received and the 20,000 approvals issued to date. Over 10,000 of these approvals have yet to be claimed as payments. It is expected that the TAMS II budget will be fully spent based on the number of applications received and factoring in the number of future tranches. The most recent tranche of the scheme had a record number of 3,200 applicants which is the highest level of applications under any tranche to date.

Any increase in the ceiling for the Pigs and Poultry Investment Scheme of TAMS II from the existing ceiling would also require EU Commission approval to a formal amendment to Ireland's Rural Development Plan.

Beef Industry

Questions (264)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

264. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the matter of cattle prices here will be addressed (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28538/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

As the Deputy will be aware, as Minister for Agriculture, I have no role in determining prices for any commodity nor can I intervene in the same.

The Beef Sector is an important element of the Irish economy and I am conscious of the importance that this key sector plays in rural Ireland.

I am keenly aware that the past few months have been very challenging for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There was a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices lasting from autumn 2018 to spring 2019, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

The recent announcement by Commissioner Hogan of EU exceptional aid for the Irish beef sector is very welcome in this context. I have been making the case for some time for an exceptional aid package from the EU Commission for Irish beef farmers, at EU Council of Agriculture Minister meetings, and in direct consultation with the Commission.

Further details on the aid package will be announced in due course following the appropriate stakeholder consultation.

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 RDP period. Building on this is the exchequer funded Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), a €20 million pilot project for 2019.

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 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.

My Department is examining all appropriate measures to support the different agrifood sectors, including the suckler sector in preparation for the next iteration of the CAP, and through the next Agri Food strategy to 2030. My view is that such measures should support and encourage suckler farmers to make the best decisions possible to improve the profitability and the economic and environmental efficiency of their farming system.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (265)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

265. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which the relatively low levels of carbon emissions of Ireland have been compared with the higher level in other jurisdictions when calculating reduction targets; the extent to which such comparisons have resulted in lower targets for the agri-food industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28585/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department recognises that current and future EU climate targets pose considerable challenges for Irish agriculture due to the fact that agriculture accounts for 33% of national emissions.

The EU targets to 2030, negotiated by my colleague, Minister Bruton, are guided by the EU’s commitments under the Paris Agreement agreed in 2015. The Paris agreement aims to tackle 95% of global emissions through 188 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which will increase in ambition over time. The agreement means that the EU has a target of a 40% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. Ireland’s contribution to the Paris Agreement will be via the NDC proposed by the EU on behalf of its Member States.

The Effort Sharing Regulation proposal suggested a 39% GHG reduction target for Ireland for the period 2021 to 2030 relative to 2005, again based on GDP per capita. However, this emissions target was adjusted downward for cost-effectiveness, by 9%, so the national target is 30% by 2030.

Ireland has also been offered flexible mechanisms including 5.6% to be achieved via offsetting emissions by sequestering carbon dioxide through Land Use, Land use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) This constitutes the highest level of flexibility available to any member state. It was recognised that Ireland had two specific difficulties in reaching targets by emissions reduction alone and therefore has a higher level of flexibilities than those for other EU member states;

1. The ratio of Ireland’s non-Emission trading sector (including agriculture); Emission Trading Sector (principally heavy industry) emissions is higher than in most member states;

2. The high proportion of agricultural emissions with low mitigation potential in total Irish GHG emissions.

While Ireland is internationally recognised as having one of the most carbon efficient systems of food production in the EU, and when compared to other EU countries, there is huge variability in carbon efficiency that exists within the country. The Teagasc Sustainability Survey shows that the top performing third of farms emitted, on average, 9.6 kg CO2 equivalent per kg beef, compared with 14.9 kg for the bottom performing third of cattle farms. Reducing this variability is a real opportunity to make progress in reducing emissions from cattle production in Ireland with positive economic dividend on the farms concerned.

I am confident that the agriculture sector as a whole will contribute significantly to achieving Ireland’s targets and its transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy and society with collaboration, co-operation and collective responsibility being key in achieving this ambition.

Forestry Sector

Questions (266)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

266. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which increased forestry is likely to play a role in meeting the carbon reduction targets of Ireland. [28586/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Forests can make an important contribution to climate action through the sequestration and storage of carbon dioxide and by supplying sustainable and renewable materials that support the decarbonisation of our economy.

The Government's Climate Action Plan 2019 recognises this key role which afforestation has to play in climate change mitigation particularly through carbon sequestration. Under current rules agreed as part of the EU Effort Sharing Regulation, forestry can contribute some 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 per annum of carbon towards Ireland’s emissions targets under the next climate mitigation period 2021-2030.

Planting achieved under successive afforestation programmes will be the basis for this emissions reductions figure. The Climate Action Plan now sets a target of an average of 8,000 hectares of new planting per year. While this will mostly yield benefits in the longer term post-2030, it will also contribute to our 2030 target through carbon sequestration.

My Department has approved an average of 9,000 hectares for new planting each year for the last three years. This means that there are almost 10,000 approved and shovel-ready hectares available to the forestry sector which could be planted today. The challenge is to ensure that all of the effort that goes into securing and approving new sites results in those sites being planted, if planting levels are to increase and the target of 18% land cover is to be achieved. I am committed to working towards this target through the continued provision of generous grants and premiums, engagement with a range of stakeholders from farmers to public bodies, a dedicated promotion and communication campaign, and by examining ways in which farm forestry can be better integrated into the new CAP. Knowledge transfer programmes and other initiatives which raise awareness of the economic and ecosystem benefits of forestry will continue to play an important role in tackling some of the barriers to planting.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (267)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

267. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the proportion of non-arable wetlands and the extent to which such lands are reckonable in terms of carbon reduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28587/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department recognises wetlands as an important carbon pool. Reducing emissions from these areas is a means to contribute to our climate ambitions through mobilising Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) credits over the period 2021 to 2030. This is an important part of Agriculture's contribution to the emission reductions and is set out in the all of Government Climate Action Plan released on June 17th 2019.

The Climate Action Plan targets at least 40,000 hectares for reduced intensity management of the 370,000 hectares carbon rich soils under agricultural management as part of our commitment.

There is also carbon abatement potential in the rewetting of non-agricultural wetlands. This is classified Wetland - Draining and Rewetting (WDR) and comes last in the hierarchy of activities under LULUCF. This means that WDR is restricted to organic soils not reported under net afforestation, forest management, cropland management and grassland management. This hierarchy restricts WDR in many cases to former or active peat extraction areas, degraded near-natural areas or otherwise abandoned organic soils. As a result, these come under the responsibility of the National Parks and Wildlife services and Bord Na Mona to initiate carbon abatement actions in these areas.

1 https://www.epa.ie/irelandsenvironment/environmentalindicators/

2 https://www.teagasc.ie/media/website/publications/2018/An-Analysis-of-Abatement-Potential-of-Greenhouse-Gas-Emissions-in-Irish-Agriculture-2021-2030.pdf

Agrifood Sector

Questions (268)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

268. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he remains satisfied that the carbon reduction targets set for the agrifood sector remain attainable without damaging the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28588/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Ireland is internationally recognised as having one of the most carbon efficient systems of food production in the EU, and when compared to other EU countries Ireland has a comparative advantage in grass-based carbon efficient livestock production.

Innovations unique to Ireland such as the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), refining Economic Breeding Indexes (EBIs) for our dairy animals, producing Carbon Navigators for our dairy, beef and sheep farms; 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 contribute to lowering the carbon footprint of the sector.

There are inherent challenges in affecting climate emission reductions in the sector and we must recognise the challenge we face as a food producing country while at the same time acknowledging that the sector should be seen as part of the solution. The Teagasc Sustainability Survey shows that the top performing third of farms emitted, on average, 9.6 kg CO2 equivalent per kg beef, compared with 14.9 kg for the bottom performing third of cattle farms. Reducing this variability is a real opportunity to make progress in reducing emissions from cattle production in Ireland. This will not alone reduce our emissions but also improve economic return on these farms.

The Government’s policy position for the agriculture sector is an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise our capacity for sustainable food production but is also cognisant of the important economical contribution agriculture makes to our economy and to the economy of rural Ireland.

There are three strands to my Department’s approach to carbon neutrality:

i. reducing agricultural emissions;

ii. increasing carbon sequestration and

iii. displacing and substituting fossil fuel and energy intensive materials.

Production efficiency improvements, where we seek to implement new innovations to increase output while maintaining or reducing inputs, are a core part of the efforts being undertaken by the agricultural sector. As an example of my continued focus on ensuring the lowering of the carbon footprint of the agriculture sector, I have recently launched a Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot scheme that builds on the success of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme with a funding provision of €20m in 2019. This new scheme is targeted at suckler farmers and specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production.

My Department continues to review options that will enable our farmers to transition to a low carbon economy while also being aware of the need to maintain economic competitiveness and increase our agricultural output.

Food Imports

Questions (269)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

269. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which food and-or food products from other jurisdictions continue to be monitored and checked for country of origin, with particular reference to the need to ensure that all imports comply with Irish and EU standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28589/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Food products placed on the marketplace are covered by a range of legislation designed to ensure that products supplied to consumers are of the highest safety standards. My Department plays a part in the enforcement of this legislation along with other Government departments and State Agencies such as the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Health Service Executive. The FSAI is the body responsible for enforcement of regulations governing traceability, labelling and provision of food information to customers.

Labelling of food is governed by the EU food legislation on the provision of Food Information to Consumers (Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011), which lays down strict rules on labelling of ingredients. Country of origin labelling is mandatory for certain meats and other products such as honey and wine. From 1 April 2020, it will be mandatory to indicate the country of origin of the primary ingredient (which makes up more than 50% of a food) if it is different from the country of origin of the product as a whole.

Primary responsibility under EU law for the safety and traceability of food placed on the market lies with food business operators. The role of National Competent Agencies is to verify compliance with this requirement. This is done via a combination of inspecting establishments and auditing the food safety management systems which operators have in place. These controls are applied at different stages in the food supply chain. Regulation (EC) No. 178 of 2002 sets out the general principles and requirements of EU food law and stipulates that food business operators must, at all stages of production, processing and distribution within their business, ensure food law requirements are satisfied. In regard to traceability, the regulations require that food business operators have what is referred to as the ‘one step forward, one step backward’ traceability system. There are additional requirements for certain fishery and aquaculture products under the Control Regulation (Regulation 1224/2009 and Implementing Regulation 404/2011) from first sale to subsequent stages of production, processing and distribution up to retail.

My Department has a permanent veterinary presence at all of its approved slaughter plants. Controls at plants only engaged in secondary processing are carried out at a frequency based on an annual risk assessment. An annual audit of imported products is carried out in each Department-approved plant, including checks on physical identity, labelling and documentary checks.

Extra veterinary checks are carried out on selected consignments of foods imported into DAFM-approved establishments from other EU Member States or from Third Countries outside the EU. These checks include physical checks of product condition, checks of accompanying documentation and checks of labelling and health markings.

The import of products of animal origin from third countries is governed by a comprehensive and robust legislative framework laid down at EU level, controlled by Member States in the first instance, and audited by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (formally the FVO), to ensure compliance with all of the relevant food safety standards. The legislation imposes health and supervisory requirements designed to ensure that imported products meet standards equivalent to those required for production and trade between Member States. Border Inspection Posts are operated by my Department. Import control procedures on products of animal and fish origin are highly prescriptive and strictly audited by the Directorate to ensure compliance. Inspection reports are published on the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety’s website.

I am satisfied that the controls and checks in place and enforced by my Department ensure that Irish consumers are protected and correctly informed when they purchase and consume food products.

The FSAI has service contracts in place with the official agencies performing official controls, to verify compliance with the extensive requirements of food labelling legislation, in these establishments. The FSAI reports in detail on the number of inspections and checks carried out, and non-compliance findings.

Fishing Industry

Questions (270)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

270. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he has had negotiations with the Scottish or UK authorities in regard to the resolution of outstanding issues in respect of Rockall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28590/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Ireland does not recognise the United Kingdom’s claim to sovereignty over Rockall. The waters around Rockall, including within 12 nautical miles, are part of sea area 6b, within which Irish vessels, like those of other EU Member States, have a right of access under the Common Fisheries Policy.

The Irish Government has consistently said this matter should be dealt with through diplomacy and dialogue. In that context, a process of intense engagement is now under way, led by senior Ministers from both administrations and supported by senior officials.

Our shared aim is to resolve differences over Rockall in a way which benefits both countries, and to develop further an already strong bilateral relationship

Agrifood Sector

Questions (271)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

271. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans for growth and increased employment in the agrifood sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28591/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Food Wise 2025, the latest ten year strategy for the agri-food sector published in July 2015, identifies the opportunities and challenges facing the sector and provides an enabling strategy that will allow the sector to develop and prosper. 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 sectoral recommendations.

If these recommendations are implemented, the expert committee that drew up the Food Wise 2025 Strategy believes that various growth projections are achievable by 2025 including the creation of 23,000 additional jobs in the agri-food sector all along the supply chain from primary production to high value-added product development.

According to the CSO’s Labour Force Survey, employment in the agri-food sector accounts for an average of 172,800 jobs in 2018 or 7.7% of total employment. Agriculture, forestry and fishing accounts for around 109,000 while the food and beverages sector employs close to 58,000, with wood and wood processing accounting for a further 6,000 jobs.

While the overall level of employment from these sectors is less than 8% of total employment nationwide, the proportion of employment outside Dublin is much greater. Census 2016 data shows that in the Border region the agri-food sector employment accounted for 14.2% of overall employment and accounted for over 12% in the south-east region.

Food Exports

Questions (272)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

272. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which he expects the exports of meat and dairy products to increase in volume and value over the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28592/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

According to the CSO, Ireland exported almost €3.9 billion worth of meat with a volume of over 1 million tonnes, to approx. 70 countries in 2018. 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.

Opening new markets and expanding existing ones is a key part of my Department's response to the challenges and uncertainty posed by Brexit, and is in line with the market development theme of the Food Wise 2025 strategy.

My Department's market access web portal, launched earlier this year, provides a wide range of information to exporters in relation to markets and requirements. The inaugural market access report, launched on 4 March 2019, provides an overview of the substantial progress made in terms of market access to third countries for Irish food producers.

Bord Bia have undertaken a major data driven exercise to identify priority markets across the food and drink categories, which can be targeted. This exercise is providing an invaluable tool for Irish exporters and for the department and its agencies in determining the strategic priorities for agri-food trade. In relation to meat, five countries have been selected for detailed study - Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Mexico & Malaysia - and for dairy, the following countries have been identified - Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia & Vietnam

The role of my Department is to open up markets for the industry and it is then up to the industry, with the support of my Department and Bord Bia, to avail of these opportunities.

The long-term fundamentals of global meat and dairy markets are strong, with growing global demand projected from fast developing countries with increasing middle classes and more westernised diets. There is confidence that the Irish food industry is well placed to gain from the opportunity presented by this expanding global demand, underpinned by the success of our efforts and those of the Irish food industry.

Agrifood Sector

Questions (273)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

273. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which Brexit proofing financial assistance remains available to agrifood producers; the degree to which individual farmers are likely to benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28593/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I have introduced a number of supports to assist the agri-food sector in preparing to address the challenges posed by Brexit. These include:

- the €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme for Brexit-impacted SMEs and mid-cap businesses. The funding arrangements ensure that at least 40% of the fund is available to food businesses. Up to 14 June 2019, 585 applications have been approved. The total number of loans progressed to sanction at bank level is 141, with a total value of €30.6m, of which 29, with a value of €8.2m, relate to food businesses;

- a market prioritisation exercise undertaken by Bord Bia to identify priority markets across all food and drinks categories;

- tailored supports and analysis are being provided to food companies through Bord Bia’s Brexit Barometer;

- an intensified series of trade missions to develop and grow new markets;

- the recently launched DBEI/DAFM “Future Growth Loan Scheme” will bring up to €300 million of long-term strategic investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including farmers and the agri-food & seafood sectors. The fund is leveraged by exchequer funding of €62 million, of which 40%, or some €25 million, has been provided by my Department. Businesses have been able to apply for loan eligibility through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) since 17th April 2019.

I also have had ongoing discussions with Commissioner Hogan regarding the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. The Commission have already made €50m available to Irish beef farmers as a response to market pressures, and this can be matched by national funding. I expect to be rolling out a support scheme with this funding in the very near future. I have also stressed the need for the Commission to be ready to deploy a further range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on the agri-food and fisheries sector. Avoiding a no-deal Brexit continues to be the Government’s overriding policy priority.

And, of course, our practical preparations for all potential scenarios, including a no-deal Brexit, continue to be progressed and refined through the whole-of-Government coordination structures that have been in place for some time.

Fishing Industry

Questions (274)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

274. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which fish stocks remain sufficiently high to ensure the future and viability of the fishing sector here now and in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28594/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

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. The CFP specifically calls for the progressive restoration and maintenance of populations of fish stocks above biomass levels capable of producing Maximum Sustainable Yield (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 on the basis of a proposal produced by the European Commission that is informed by the best available scientific advice, 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.

I am confident that, through the CFP, we will be able to ensure the sustainability of our fish stocks and in turn the 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 (275)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

275. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he continues to encourage new markets for Irish food and food products, with particular reference to switching to new markets in the aftermath of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28595/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports is a constant and central component of the strategic development of the industry, as evidenced by its placement at the centre of Food Wise 2025, the industry’s strategy for development. It has become even more important in recent times given the need to diversify our markets and reduce our reliance on traditional destinations such as the UK.

Against the backdrop of EU-agreed trade deals with Canada, Japan and Mexico, my Department will continue its efforts to open new markets while further deepening trade with existing markets for Irish agri-food exporters.

For example, in 2018, it facilitated the decision of the Chinese authorities to open their market to Irish beef imports by listing a number of approved Irish beef establishments. 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. In April 2019, we saw the opening of the Ukrainian market for Irish beef and pork. During my June trade mission to Japan, an agreement was reached in principle to allow access for Irish sheepmeat. This development followed the announcement last month of the removal of the under-30 months restriction for Irish beef exports to Japan. This means that all Irish beef is now eligible for export to this very valuable market.

Trade Missions also play an important role in this regard, building a network of Governmental, Official and Industry contacts which assist in gaining and then developing a presence in many global markets. In 2018, I led successful missions to the US, Canada, China, Indonesia and Malaysia.

In 2019, an extensive trade mission itinerary is being pursued. So far this year, I have visited Turkey and China followed by an extensive mission to Japan and South Korea in June. My next scheduled trade mission is to Algeria and Egypt in November. These missions include participants from across the agri-food sector and feature extensive interactions between industry and officials with their counterparts as well as high-level political discussions.

Overall, agri-food 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.

Farm Data

Questions (276)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

276. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he continues to monitor the cost of farm production inputs with a view to maintaining a livelihood for farm families into the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28596/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

My Department continually monitors the cost of farm production inputs by using the most recent data available from both national and international sources.

Official statistics on farm inputs are compiled by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). These statistics are reported on by the CSO in various publications and are available on their website. Departmental publications such as the Annual Review and Outlook 2018 also report on the costs of farm inputs. Farm output costs, input costs and margins also receive detailed examination each year by Teagasc in their National Farm Survey. International sources used to monitor farm inputs include, Eurostat, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and OECD.

In June 2019, the CSO released its Final Estimate of Output, Input and Income in Agriculture for 2018. This shows that aggregate farm income (operating surplus) decreased by 17% to €2,849 million in 2018. However, this follows an increase of 30% in 2017 against 2016 figures. The overall value of goods output increased by 1.2%, or €96m, to €8,182m. Intermediate consumption increased by €690 million (13%) over 2017, to €6,001 million. The main items giving rise to this increase are feeding stuffs and fertilisers, which increased by €356 million (+27%) and €69 million (+13%) respectively.

Each month, the CSO issue the Agricultural Price Indices outlining the changes in output and input indices for a range of agricultural products. In their most recent release issued in mid-June covering the period up to April 2019, the CSO indicated that the agricultural output price index increased by 0.3% in April 2019 compared with March 2019. On an annual basis, the agricultural output price index was up 0.9% in April 2019 compared with April 2018. The agricultural input price index increased by 0.1% in April 2019 compared with March 2019. The resulting terms of trade index for the month increased by 0.3% in April 2019. On an annual basis, the agricultural input price index increased by 4.9% in April 2019 compared with April 2018.

Food Industry Data

Questions (277)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

277. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which objectives and targets as set out by Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025 are being achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28597/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The main targets set out in the Food Harvest report published in 2010 were, by 2020, to increase the value of primary output by 33% and agri-food exports by 40% (both from a 2007-09 average baseline); and to increase value added production by 40% (from a 2008 baseline).

Progress on those targets is monitored and reviewed on an ongoing basis. The latest data available shows that these targets have been met. There has been growth of 50% for primary production and 49% for exports (based on 2018 data), and 47% for value-added (latest available data 2016).

Food Wise 2025, the latest ten year strategy for the agri-food sector published in July 2015, is the successor to the Food Harvest strategy. It identifies the opportunities and challenges facing the sector and provides an enabling strategy that will allow the sector to develop and prosper. 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 sectoral recommendations.

If these recommendations are implemented, the expert committee which drew up the Food Wise 2025 Strategy believed that the following growth projections are achievable by 2025: increasing the value of agri-food exports by 85% to €19 billion; increasing value added in the sector by 70% to in excess of €13 billion; and increasing the value of primary production by 65% to almost €10 billion. With regard to employment, Food Wise foresees the creation of 23,000 additional jobs in the agri-food sector all along the supply chain from primary production to high value added product development.

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% and primary production by 8.9% compared to the baseline.

As of Q1 2019, of the 376 detailed actions which were due to commence by 2019 or are ongoing actions; 81% have been achieved or substantial action has been undertaken; and a further 19% have commenced and are progressing well.

Food Promotion

Questions (278)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

278. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which the market for venison remains viable at home and abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28598/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

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.

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.

Greyhound Industry

Questions (279)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

279. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the content broadcast in a programme (details supplied) regarding the greyhound sector; if existing welfare legislation and enforcement provisions will be re-examined to ensure they are fit for purpose; the primary and secondary legislation in operation with respect to welfare and sanctioning; and the sanctions involved for breach of provisions and prohibited activities in the legislation. [28601/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The programme referred to by the Deputy contained evidence of practices that are completely unacceptable from an animal welfare perspective. My Department takes any allegations of breaches of animal welfare rules very seriously and will thoroughly investigate and take the necessary enforcement and other action to deal with such offences.

In particular, my Department is engaging in a review of the licensing conditions in knackeries, with regard to practices seen on the programme. All allegations will be fully examined to determine the appropriate actions.

The Greyhound Sector has undergone a series of reforms in recent times, most notable when the Greyhound Racing Act 2019 was signed by the President on the 28th May 2019. The drafting of this legislation strengthens the legal basis for the industry, with a view to fortifying the integrity of the greyhound racing sector and improving provision for greyhound traceability.

My Department has a strong and consistent record regarding the enforcement of animal welfare rules, including the review of 100 years of animal welfare legislation, leading to the enactment of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013.

A total of 73 successful prosecutions have been taken under the Act since it was brought in, with a further 30 prosecution files currently being processed for welfare abuses.