Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Questions (121)

Bernard Durkan


121. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he is taking further steps to ensure the viability of the agrifood industry, notwithstanding recent indicators in respect of Brexit and the effects of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24034/20]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The agri-food sector is Ireland’s most important indigenous exporting industry, playing a vital role in the economy. 137,000 farms produce over €8 billion in output; and we have over 770,000 hectares of forest and over 2,000 fishing vessels & aquaculture sites. The agri-food supply chain stretches from rural and coastal areas all across Ireland to the UK, Europe and further to markets in the Americas, Asia and Africa. In 2019, Ireland’s food and agri-foods products were exported to over 180 markets worldwide and valued at €14.5 billion, a 63% increase from €8.9 billion in 2010.  The sector is thriving and continues to evolve and meet the needs of its customers, domestically and internationally.

While the sector faces significant challenges such as COVID-19, Brexit, and trade uncertainty in general, environmental concerns, and future CAP and CFP reform; the sector also has many opportunities to develop further and prosper. We have a strong international reputation as a supplier of safe, nutritious and sustainably produced food. International consumers seek out our food and beverage products in what is a very competitive international market. We should be proud of this and work to build and enhance that reputation for the benefit of our farmers, fishers and all other stakeholders within the sector.

The agri-food sector has been well served over the last 20 years by having a series of ten-year strategies to guide its development and we have committed in the Programme for Government that this should continue with the preparation of a new strategy to 2030. A Committee of sector stakeholders has been working since late last year on this new strategy. Their terms of reference are to outline the vision and key objectives, with associated actions, required to ensure the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the agri-food sector in the decade ahead.

Last week, I met with the Chair of the Committee to discuss progress and spoke with the Committee members also, and I am satisfied that their work will  make a very important contribution to ensuring the future viability and development of the agri-food sector.  The Programme for Government has committed to publishing the strategy within six months of Government formation.

In the meantime, work continues under Food Wise 2025, the current strategy for the agri-food sector. The implementation process for Food Wise is driven by a High Level Implementation Committee. I look forward to chairing my first meeting of that Committee on Thursday, where the focus will be on our ongoing response to COVID and Brexit.

In the meantime, I will ensure that my Department continues to assist the Sector through the provision of significant financial support from the CAP, the CFP and National funding.  I will also ensure that its Agencies continue to provide support for research and innovation, for marketing and for investment where this is needed.

Question No. 122 answered with Question No. 117.