The tillage sector is an integral component of our Agri-food 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.
I acknowledge that cereal production has experienced difficult challenges in recent times particularly from poor climatic conditions, however my Department continues to provide significant supports to the sector.
The Tillage Capital Investment Scheme under TAMS II covering specific areas of investment for tillage farmers with in excess of €14.5 million distributed to over 860 farmers to date.
The continuation of the coupled EU Protein Aid Scheme for 2018 has resulted in over €2.84m being paid to 681 growers. This Scheme was available again in 2019 and I can confirm that this valuable support scheme will be available in 2020. This coupled payment is worth approx. €3m/annum to tillage farmers.
In further support for the sector, my Department continues to provide a high quality and valuable official crop seed certification scheme, as well as an extensive national crop variety evaluation programme, providing invaluable information to growers on the latest varieties available.
The agri-food 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 distilled spirits such as whiskey.
Cereals are therefore a significant stakeholder in our agri-food industry from a supply/food safety and sustainability viewpoint and the continuance of an efficient and viable tillage sector in Ireland is vital.
I can assure the Deputy that I, and the Government, remain fully committed to this important sector which plays a key role in the development of the wider agri-food industry.