Thursday, 11 February 2021

Questions (339)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

339. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which bovine tuberculosis continues to be eradicated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7750/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Following many successful years of reducing bovine TB levels to the benefit of Irish farmers, there has been a concerning incremental increase in the disease since 2016. This has continued in 2020 with further increases in herd incidence and reactor numbers observed. Herd incidence (on a 12-month rolling basis) has breached 4% for the first time since 2012 and reactor numbers have exceeded 20,000 – the highest number since 2009. These trends highlight the need for urgent action by all stakeholders to manage the risk more effectively across all transmission routes.

Whilst the immediate trends are disappointing and worrying, good progress has been made over the past decade. During 2009, 5,860 herds were subject to restriction whilst the number in 2019 was 4,060.

I recently launched a new launched a new Bovine TB Eradication Strategy 2021-2030. The implementation of this strategy is overseen by an established TB Forum group along with being supported by three working groups – a scientific group, implementation group and finance group will ensure that all aspects of the Strategy are addressed. As we are dealing with an infectious disease, the strategy is not set in stone - it is a living document which will be subject to amendment and refinement on an on-going basis. This new TB Strategy is available on www.bovinetb.ie

At our most recent TB Forum meeting on Thursday 4th February 2021, it was agreed by all stakeholders that extensive consultation within three working groups will develop a shared understanding of how collectively we can reduce TB incidence along with implementing the new TB Eradication Strategy. My Department remains committed to reducing and ultimately eradicating TB in Ireland as demonstrated by the recent sanctioning of an additional 16 officers to assist the TB Programme. Attaining TB-free status remains critical from a farm family profitability and sustainability perspective and from a trade perspective at national and at international level. I am acutely conscious that every TB restriction represents a significant emotional and financial challenge to the farm family concerned.

It is a deep regret that today over 2,262 herds are currently restricted compared to 2.096 this time last year. I want to work with all stakeholders in ensuring fewer herdowners experience the challenges associated with a TB restriction and that we work purposefully towards eradication of this disease, thus eliminating this on-going cost on farmers and the State.