Total imports of agricultural products have fluctuated within the last five years but showed a modest increase from £717 million in 1987 to £772 million in 1991. During the same period exports of agricultural products have increased from £1,882 million in 1987 to £2,046 million in 1991.
Government policy, as implemented by my own and other Departments through State agencies, has for many years, had as one of its primary objectives the development of domestic alternatives to imported products. However, a large proportion of our agricultural imports at present consist of products which are not readily substitutable by home produced products.
Significant progress has however been made in a number of areas regarding the provision of alternatives to imports. With regard to the fruit and vegetable sector, An Bord Glas are implementing development plans which aim at a combined market share recovery and export expansion of £60 million and the creation of 1,800 full time and 1,500 part time jobs. Already considerable progress has been made in this regard and exports of fresh vegetables now exceed imports.
Imports of animal feedstuffs amounted to £151 million in 1991. The greater proportion of this consists of corn gluten, soya bean meal, etc., which is used in compound feed production in the cattle, pig, poultry and sheep sectors.
In relation to the food processing industry, the IDA policy for all sectors of the industry is to grant aid projects which, among other things, are either export oriented or contribute substantially and directly to providing home produced alternatives to imports.