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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 31 Mar 2022

Vol. 1020 No. 4

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Regulatory Bodies

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

114. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his proposals to ensure the unfair trading practices enforcement authority will have the necessary powers to improve and secure farmers' position in the market chain. [16812/22]

Tá fáilte roimh an Aire. I have long believed a strong regulator is required for the food sector, for the meat industry in particular. The Minister has advocated for a food ombudsman in the past. Recently, he announced instead he would establish an office for fairness and transparency. I ask him to inform the Dáil what the distinction is between the two. What powers does he envisage the new enforcement authority will have?

As the Deputy may be aware, the programme for Government commits to the establishment of a new authority to enforce the unfair trading practices directive. It will have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland. In April 2021, I signed the statutory instrument transposing the unfair trading practices directive directly into Irish law before the 1 May 2021 deadline for transposition. At that time, I also established the unfair trading practices directive enforcement authority in my Department on an interim basis pending the finalisation of the primary legislation for the new office.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that on 22 March, the priority drafting of the general scheme of the agricultural and food supply chain Bill 2022 was approved by Government at Cabinet. The Bill will establish a new independent statutory authority to be known as the office for fairness and transparency in the agrifood supply chain. The general scheme has been published on my Department's website and it provides for a range of functions and powers. The objective of the new office will be to promote the principles of fairness and transparency in the food supply chain, and it will principally do this in two ways. First, it will perform a price and market analysis and reporting function. The new office will endeavour to bring greater transparency to the food supply chain by carrying out market analysis on publicly available agricultural and food supply chain data and by producing reports that will be made available to stakeholders and the wider public. Second, the new office will be responsible for ensuring fairness is observed in the agricultural and food supply chain by becoming the State’s designated enforcement authority for enforcing the rules on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the food supply chain. Once established, the new office will take over the enforcement functions of the interim enforcement authority currently established in my Department.

With regard to the necessary powers to improve and secure farmers’ position in the market chain, the general scheme of the Bill as approved by Government provides the necessary principles and policies to achieve the programme for Government’s objective of fairness, equity and transparency in the food chain. The next stage is the drafting of the detail of the Bill, which I am hoping will be finalised shortly. In the interim, I assure the Deputy that the interim enforcement authority has been assigned all the necessary legal powers to investigate complaints from suppliers of agricultural and food products and to carry out investigations on its own initiative.

I hope the Minister will accept that, to date, his response to this matter has been minimal. If he does not accept that, I would be apprehensive about the authority that is coming down the line. I want the new authority to work. I want it to have powers of enforcement that go beyond the current section within the Department which, being frank, has received no complaints since it was established. That establishment happened on the basis of a statutory instrument that transposed the European directive verbatim without any additional roles or acts by processors or retailers being made illegal. The Minister said he plans to move to the next stage shortly. What does "shortly" mean? Can we expect publication within the next fortnight, for example? How willing is the Minister to engage with the Opposition and farm organisations to ensure the new authority has the teeth the section in the Department does not?

I do not accept at all that my position has been minimal. This is a landmark move and landmark legislation establishing this office. It is something to which I was committed throughout my time in opposition and I ensured it was included in the programme for Government. I outlined to the public at the most recent general election my commitment to deliver this if I got into government. It was not a commitment in Sinn Féin's manifesto at that election. In some of its annual submissions, Sinn Féin has supported it, and in others, it has not.

I welcome the Deputy's support for this measure and I agree it is important this office has teeth and is effective. That is why I have engaged very broadly with all stakeholders up to this point and conducted a very significant public consultation so everybody could feed into it, including the Deputy himself as an Opposition spokesperson, and all farmers, primary producers and stakeholders in the agrifood sector. It is important we step this out. The final drafting is taking place and I hope to bring the Bill to the Dáil as soon as possible following that. The team is working on it at the moment and a lot of work is already going into it. We will proceed with establishing the office and recruiting staff and I hope to have it up and running and effective by the end of this year.

The difficulty is the Minister said the exact same thing about the timeframe this time last year. I followed the unfair trading practices regulation at an EU level throughout the entire process. I was a shadow rapporteur on the file and was part of the negotiations. I was disappointed with the final outcome because I feared the directive was far too minimal and member states would transpose it in a minimal fashion. To this point, that is what has happened. It has been transposed through a statutory instrument without any additional measures being included.

I wish the Minister well and I hope this new authority has the teeth that will allow farmers and consumers to be treated fairly within the food chain because, currently, they are not. Meat processors and retailers are acting in a cartel-like fashion where they are exploiting the people producing the food and the end purchasers of the food. Will the new office have the powers of a corporate enforcement office? Will it be able to examine every facet of the market chain to ensure undue profits are not being gleaned on the backs of hard-working farmers or hard-pressed consumers?

The key objective here is to have an independent office that is statutory and has the credibility and independence to oversee what is going on in the marketplace and influence it in a way that ensures it is as fair as possible. The ultimate objective is to ensure fairness and fair play for primary producers, farm families and smaller and more vulnerable suppliers in the food supply chain. That is the objective. The office will oversee the unfair trading practices directive but a key role will also be assessing what is happening in the marketplace, shining a light on it and influencing it in a such way that we ensure respect throughout the food supply chain for all actors, but particularly for those who are most vulnerable, namely, the primary producer, the farm family, fishers and smaller producers. That is the objective here. As I said, the plan is to have the office up and running and operational by the end of this year. We are now proceeding with legislation to bring that through as quickly as we can.

Timber Supply

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

115. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to issues affecting the supply of quality ash for the makers of hurleys; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16989/22]

Is the Minister of State aware of the issues that are affecting the quality of ash for makers of hurleys? Is she aware the game of hurling has UNESCO intangible heritage status? I want to ensure a process is put in place to support the game of hurling on the basis that Canning Hurleys has announced it is closing today. It is a major hammer blow to the game of hurling in this country and I seek the Government's response to that.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Senator Pippa Hackett)

I am aware of the situation with the supply of ash planks. Over the past ten years, over 80% of planks for hurleys have been imported into the country, mostly from the UK, Croatia, Slovakia, Denmark, Sweden and Ukraine. A number of hurley-makers import ash planks from Ukraine and this supply is disrupted due to the Russian invasion. Despite the issues with ash plank supply, I am advised there remains a large reservoir of ash wood available on the Continent and I understand hurley-makers affected by these supply issues are looking elsewhere in Europe to increase the supply of ash planks.

Over the past ten years, supply from ash forests in Ireland and on the Continent has been affected by ash dieback disease, which is present throughout the natural range of ash in Europe. The disease has caused significant damage to ash forests in Europe. In Ireland, my Department has provided support totalling more than €7 million to owners of ash plantations impacted by ash dieback disease through the ash dieback reconstitution scheme and, more recently, through the reconstitution and underplanting scheme introduced in July 2020. I understand that, apart from research trials, all EU member states have stopped planting ash.

The Department has supported and continues to support a number of research initiatives to identify tolerant ash trees for use in ash breeding programmes for the future. The breeding of ash for resistance, which the Department and Teagasc have been involved in, is promising but is relatively long-term and will not increase ash plank supply in the short term. My Department has met Croke Park, Teagasc, Coillte and hurley-makers several times to examine the issues associated with the disease, including its spread throughout Europe, the issues of trying to make more hurleys using less ash wood, and breeding ash for resistance. The challenge posed by ash dieback has been with us for nearly ten years and some of the hurley manufacturers have already increased their range of supply lines and regions they import from. Some have started using different species of wood to make their hurleys and some have become more efficient in their use of ash.

I welcome the Minister of State's response. As I stated at the outset, the game of hurling is embedded in the Irish psyche and it has UNESCO intangible heritage status. When a family company like Canning Hurleys announced last week it is closing today, that was a hammer blow to everybody who loves the game of hurling, no matter what part of the country they are in, because the Canning family is synonymous with the game. Will the Minister of State convene a meeting with Croke Park, Teagasc, Coillte and the Irish Guild of Ash Hurley Makers as soon as possible? I note that meetings have taken place several times, as the Minister of State said. However, would she consider reconvening a meeting at the earliest possible opportunity as a matter of urgency to deal with supply issues? One of the supply lines comes from Ukraine and that makes the issue particularly urgent.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Senator Pippa Hackett)

I agree with the Deputy that the game is part of our culture and is synonymous with ash and the clash of the ash. It has kept many communities together throughout our State's history. As I said, my Department has met Croke Park, Teagasc, Coillte and hurley-makers. I am not sure of the dates of those last meetings but I will look into reconvening another meeting, especially if we are losing hurley-makers. That is important.

I welcome the Minister of State's willingness to do that. Will she inform the House when she proposes to write to them and set up that meeting because we cannot afford to lose hurley-makers? They are the supply lines, bloodlines and bloodstock of that sport. Will the Minister of State place a degree of urgency on this issue? It would be wonderful if we were to hear from her that she was convening, as a matter of urgency, a meeting of all the stakeholders as early as next week or the week after, for instance, such is the urgency of this issue.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Senator Pippa Hackett)

I will make that information available when a meeting is convened. I cannot commit to a timeline yet as there are a number of stakeholders involved apart from my Department. The challenges-----

If the Minister of State calls them all together, they will come. She should not worry as she has that power.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Senator Pippa Hackett)

You never know. The Deputy has outlined the challenges, and the challenges are not only posed by ash dieback and the supply of ash. The challenge is what will happen going forward because, if we end up with no ash in Europe because of ash dieback over the next 20, 30 or 40 years, we will have to look to alternatives, including different timbers such as bamboo-----

Hence the urgency.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Senator Pippa Hackett)

I agree, and that is something we need to be looking into. I thank the Deputy for the question.

Horticulture Sector

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

116. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress that has been made to implement the short and medium-term actions of the working paper to address challenges related to peat supply in the horticulture sector. [16813/22]

The Minister of State will know there are some horticultural sectors, and I am thinking of the mushroom industry in particular, that need peat to survive. I hope an alternative to peat can be found and I would urge that efforts be intensified in that regard. For years we had the scandalous situation in this State of hundreds and thousands of units of peat being extracted from Irish land and exported. Now we have the scandalous situation whereby hundreds and thousands of units of peat will be imported from other parts of Europe. Both are hypocritical positions. After an awful lot of procrastination, we eventually got a working paper. I am sceptical about its breadth but I would like to know what the progress has been and what has been done about the implementation of that working paper.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Senator Pippa Hackett)

On 17 January, my Department, in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, published a working paper that set out a series of actions to support the horticultural growers who are dependent on peat as a growing medium. Progress has been made on the implementation of the actions in that working paper. A guidance document on the regulatory framework for peat extraction was published by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS. That guide can be found via www.gov.ie. My Department has recruited an independent expert to work with growers and suppliers, including Bord na Móna, to ascertain the level of horticultural peat stocks available to growers. This expert will also work with Bord na Móna and other suppliers and growers to ascertain whether any hobby or other peat on Bord na Móna's estate would be of interest or value to growers. Such peat might be suitable for mixing to produce a growing medium of value to growers. This work is under way.

To address the issue of access to peat in the medium term, my Department has recruited planning experts to provide focused regulatory guidance to those wishing to achieve regulatory compliance for extraction of horticultural peat on sub-30 ha bogs for supply to the domestic horticulture industry. This work will build on the expert guidance published recently by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and the NPWS on engaging with the regulatory systems that apply to the extraction of peat. It will be important for extractors to engage fully with the regulatory process.

My Department is also looking towards the future and will continue to support and facilitate research in the development of alternatives to peat for horticulture through my Department's research calls and through the EU producer organisation scheme for fruit and vegetables. The announcement of €1.69 million in funding late last year for research into peat alternatives is a significant step in assisting the horticulture sector to transition from peat to sustainable alternatives.

Last week, along with the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, I met members of the horticulture industry forum and I assured them that I am fully committed to supporting Irish growers.

I am acutely aware of the difficulties with the supply of peat and the broader issues currently facing the sector.

On the Minister of State's final line, there is no evidence she is committed to supporting this sector. Every Minister that has responsibility, across three Departments, has run for cover. We have not even been in a position to get the relevant Ministers to come before the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine to discuss the issues. Who is the independent expert commissioned by the Minister of State and when was the expert appointed? Last week, the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine met Bord na Móna, which was not aware an independent expert had been appointed and could not tell us who it was.

It does not matter who was appointed. Is the Minister of State aware that Bord na Móna has entered into a contract with an Israeli company and given it exclusive rights to the 2,000 tonnes of high grade horticultural peat in its remit? Bord na Móna is a State-owned company. It has unilaterally taken that move despite the Minister of State having a working paper that indicates an independent expert will engage with it. Mushroom growers in counties like Monaghan are asking where they will get peat in the short term. Will they have to import it or will the Minister of State provide the mechanisms for the peat to be provided here in Ireland, where it can be environmentally regulated?

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Senator Pippa Hackett)

I thank the Deputy. I cannot speak to Bord na Móna decisions. It is a semi-State commercial company and is entitled to make its own arrangements and agreements. The Deputy asked about the planning expert who has been appointed for the short-term actions to address the peat supply. We have recruited Seamus Boland from Irish Rural Link to work with the peat suppliers to ascertain the level of horticultural peat stocks available to growers. For the medium term, we have recruited planning experts, Des Johnson and Padraig Thornton, to provide focused regulatory guidance to those wishing to achieve regulatory compliance for extraction on those sub-30 ha bogs. We have seen a number of judicial cases. Extraction has to be done in compliance with the laws of this land and Europe. Bord na Móna never supplied the mushroom sector and I do not see it doing so now.

I did not say it had. The Minister of State commissioned this working group that mentioned Bord na Móna six different times, yet she is here saying she has no responsibility for Bord na Móna. It is central to the working paper her Department produced. She has appointed an independent expert with a specific remit. The second action in the working paper specifies this independent expert will be working with Bord na Móna, but it already did a deal with an Israeli company before the independent expert was in contact. Any peat extraction must be done legally. Does the Minister of State accept we need to find a legal mechanism by which peat can be extracted for our domestic sector in Ireland so that we can have robust environmental oversight? Does the Minister of State think it is tolerable that the mushroom sector and other horticulture sectors will be forced to continue to import peat from the far side of Europe at a much higher environmental cost?

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Senator Pippa Hackett)

I accept we need compliance in the sector. We need extractors to work in a regulated and legal fashion. That is why we have appointed the two planning experts to help the Departments and stakeholders to achieve that, if possible. We have no guarantees about what is possible. We have always imported peat. I agree we import more than we should. We are a net exporter of peat and have been for a long time.

Because Bord na Móna was shipping it across.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Senator Pippa Hackett)

Well Bord na Móna was. But we are still continuing to export peat. It is fair to say that probably most of that peat, if not all of it, is being extracted illegally, which is a massive concern for our climate action ambitions. We have to move the sector on. I am totally committed to the sector, but the commitment is to get the sector off peat. It is a priority to secure a future for the horticulture sector.

What about the short term?

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Senator Pippa Hackett)

We have put in measures for the short term.

The Government has not delivered anything.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Senator Pippa Hackett)

We have. An expert has been appointed to work with supplies of peat in the short term.

Agriculture Industry

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

117. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress that has been made in securing funding to improve national food security. [17313/22]

Despite the prominent role of agriculture in Ireland, it is a fragile system exposed to disruption in international supply chains. We are net importers of many vegetables and we are highly reliant on industrial fertilisers. Will the Minister provide an update on his meetings with farm organisations to improve our national food security this year? What policy changes does he propose to ensure our food sovereignty in the longer term?

I thank the Deputy for the question. Last year, Ireland ranked first for food security on The Economist global food security index, which ranks countries across indicators of affordability, availability, quality, safety, natural resources and resilience. The Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, is the key mechanism for ensuring food security throughout Europe. Significant implications of the Ukrainian crisis are being seen across all sectors of the economy, including agrifood. The immediate humanitarian crisis is a key focus. Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine and it has to take priority. We also need to take the necessary steps to ensure food security is maintained.

Following recent engagement at EU level, on 23 March the European Commission announced a range of actions to enhance global food security and to support farmers and consumers in the EU in light of rising food prices and input costs. The communication sets out actions in three areas. First, it presents immediate actions to safeguard food security in Ukraine and around the world. Second, it addresses the challenge of stability in the EU's food system, with a range of measures to support our farmers and maintain affordability. Finally, it confirms the EU agenda to make our food system sustainable and resilient in the years to come. It includes an allocation of €15.8 million in exceptional aid for Ireland, which can be topped up by up to 200% by national funding. I am examining ways to mobilise this support, taking account of the detailed requirements and conditionality attached to that exceptional aid provision.

I set up a rapid response team in my Department to monitor and address this challenge. I have also put in place the national fodder and food security committee, bringing together stakeholders from across the sector to address the challenges that will undoubtedly arise this year. It is important we continue to keep food production at a high level. We have to work together to ensure we overcome those challenges, which are not usually there, but are certainly an issue this year. I will work to support farmers in that process over the coming year.

I acknowledge the Minister's efforts to address the issue. What policy changes are we looking at to address food sovereignty? Farming organisations have outlined that very few farmers have the capacity to grow the grain we need. What consideration is being given to supporting the existing tillage sector to have the knowledge and capability to encourage planting of more grain? With targeted funding, farmers could plant more or rent suitable land. Has flexibility for the green low-carbon agri-environment scheme, GLAS, been examined? The other pressing issue is access to fertiliser. When we last spoke on this, there was a massive price increase, which is obviously still a major concern, but access is more pressing now. Farming organisations are warning of a potential fodder crisis, especially for small farms that cannot afford to bulk purchase fertiliser. We need to move away from our high dependency on fertiliser, which is a process. What is being done to address the issue now?

I have strongly supported the tillage sector throughout my tenure as Minister. The new CAP outlines the doubling of protein aid and the inclusion of a strong co-operation measure, which can deliver up to €10,000 to a 100 acre tillage farm annually. There is an important role for tillage farmers to play. They have been proactive in providing leadership. Some 60% of our grain is imported, so I have introduced this scheme, delivering €400 for each additional hectare of grain grown this year. There has been a strong response to that, particularly from tillage farmers, who are seeking to grow more than they did last year. Despite the increased costs, the economics for growing grain are strong compared with continuing to plant what was planted last year.

However, it is challenging to grow in that area. That is why I have included it within this particular scheme as well.

The Deputy is right about fodder. The most important priorities this year will be to grow grass and to plan for next winter and next spring. As farmers are now planning to do their breeding, they should also be planning to do their feeding. We have to look at what the supply challenges might be at the end of next year. We must take steps now to prepare for that.

The cattle are already calving now. The Minister is aware of the pressing need for farmers to be supported, but this situation raises larger points about our food sovereignty. The pandemic should have been a wake-up call to pivot towards a more secure position. In 2020, our vulnerabilities to food supply chains were clearly exposed. Now, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted this weakness again. I am very concerned that no real lessons were learned, either by the Department or by the Government, on this issue. We need to move towards a more secure and sustainable food system that is built on a diversified range of crops, with shorter supply chains. This system would be better for producers, especially smaller farmers, for consumers and for the environment. Is the Minister looking at policy changes that will help to protect us from the next crisis? We know that there will be more of them, for example with regard to climate change.

We are aware of the need to have a sustainable and secure food system. Food Vision 2030 sets out a food systems approach to how we deliver that. All the stakeholders have come together to drive that on. It is important that we are sustainable in what we do. That is why we are seeking to reduce chemical nitrogen, to increase clover swards and to reduce emissions across the board, while keeping food security central to what we do and keeping food production up. That is important too. We should not take our eye off the ball on that either.

As the Deputy knows, I have strongly supported the tillage sector. Thankfully, we have seen the level stabilise in recent years. I want to see that grow over the next period of time. It is important that we grow more grain domestically. It is important that we supply and produce the food, not just for what we consume ourselves, but also for what we supply internationally. We must do that sustainably. While the current food security challenge is a result of the war on European soil, the food security challenges in a generation’s time will be around climate change. Therefore, across the board, we have to work together to prepare for that. We will do so by reducing emissions. The food security challenge of the future will arise if we do not reduce emissions.

How does the Minister propose to reduce emissions when he has not done anything to achieve that?

Bogfaimid ar aghaidh anois go dtí an chéad cheist eile.

Fisheries Protection

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Ceist:

118. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the serious crisis in the fishing industry due to the huge increase in fuel costs; if he will report on the engagements he has held with the European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries on this matter; and if he will make an urgent intervention for fishermen in Ireland similar to the approach of the French Government. [16814/22]

As the Minister knows, there was already a serious crisis in our fishing industry before the energy crisis we are now facing. Six weeks ago, I asked the Minister in a parliamentary question what he would do to assist our fishermen. He said he was prevented from doing anything by the European Commission directive. Since then, France and Spain have made serious interventions to assist their industries. What will the Minister do?

Like the Deputy, I am aware of the increase in fuel costs, as well as the effects that this is having on our fishers. The Agriculture and Fisheries Council, AGRIFISH, meeting on 21 March initiated a debate on the impact of increasing fuel costs for the fishing industry. I emphasised to the Commissioner that these increased fuel costs come on top of difficulties that had already been created by Covid-19, as well as, of course, the impact of the quota reductions under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. I called on the Commission to urgently examine and approve measures through flexibility within the European programmes and fisheries funds that would allow funds to be allocated towards the challenges facing the industry, particularly the fuel crisis.

On 25 March, the Commission adopted and implemented a decision to trigger the crisis mechanism of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund, EMFAF, recognising the Russian military aggression as an exceptional event that is causing market disruption and thereby making it possible for member states grant two types of financial compensation to mitigate the impacts of costs stemming from market disruption and specific storage mechanisms. The Commission is continuing to explore other solutions, including possible action in the framework of the EMFAF, to make use of the remaining available financial resources.

In relation to addressing the challenges arising from the transfer of quota under the EU Brexit agreement, I have submitted schemes to the Commission for state aid approval, involving a voluntary two-month tie-up scheme in 2022 and a voluntary decommissioning scheme for the polyvalent sector of the fleet. I met with representatives of the fishing sector at the Irish Skipper Expo last Friday, just six days ago. I advised them of the progress on these and other important schemes, as recommended by the task force which I established. This sector has welcomed the two-month tie-up scheme. As the Deputy knows, the tie-up scheme, which is available to each boat, involves having a boat tied up for one month in each three-month period. The fishers are then are paid for the equivalent of what they would have been catching in that month, and the quota that they would have been catching is available to other boats that are still out. This effectively increases the quota available for the boats that are fishing in that month by 50%. It is a key measure to support the sector.

The inshore and offshore fishermen to whom I speak, including those in County Donegal, are telling me that with prices tripling, they just cannot afford to go to sea. If you look at what happened in France before Article 26 was triggered, you will see that France intervened by providing a direct subsidy to its fishing industry, which was some kind of assistance. Similarly, Spain has now announced €68 million in support for its industry, including a range of interventions. Apart from a tie-up scheme, which is linked to the existing Brexit adjustment reserve fund, what is the Minister doing for people in the fishing industry? They cannot go to sea. This impacts on food supply. This impacts on an industry that has been hard hit by Brexit, as the Minister knows. Some 60 boats will decommission. We are down to 30% of what the fleet needs to be above 18 m. This industry is already in crisis. This will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. What is the Minister going to do?

I have been listening and working and talking to fishers themselves, as well as their representatives, because this challenge is an emergency. I did this as recently as six days ago. I will continue to engage with them on the challenges. As the Deputy knows, many measures are coming out of the seafood task force report, which will support all of the sectors. Through that, I have proposed a total of €425 million to support the sector this year and next year.

I have outlined the details of the tie-up scheme, which I have submitted to the European Commission. This has been welcomed by the sector. Its impact will be that for one month in a three-month period a boat will not go to sea and it will get paid for that month. The boats that go to sea will be able to fish that quota, which increases the quota they would have had by 50%. That has been welcomed by people in the sector. I will continue to liaise closely with them because it is an important sector, particularly for our own county. It is important that we work with them through this period of time. I will continue to do that.

As I have said, the Spanish Government has announced €68 million in direct aid to be granted in the form of discounts of 20 cent per litre of diesel for three months at least; deferments in the payment of social security contributions; credit lines in the Spanish official credit institute and the Spanish state agricultural society; and €50 million from FEMPA, which is linked to Article 26. There is a whole range of interventions to assist the fishing industry in Spain. I just do not see the same detail here. I say to the Minister again, with all due respect, that I am concerned about the marine aspect of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Minister has massive responsibilities and a huge food supply crisis across the whole sector. The marine area of the Department needs a dedicated Minister of State. It needs one person keeping hold of the Department and working directly with the industry. I do not see a response in this country that is anywhere near what is happening in Spain or France. We have an industry that is more in crisis than its counterparts in Spain and France. I just do not understand this.

I have outlined to the Deputy how I have been fully plugged into the industry and its representatives in relation to the pressure that is there. I am also engaged in driving flexibility at European level in relation to how we can respond. I have outlined the scheme which has been submitted, and for which we are hoping to get approval. This will provide relief for the sector at a very difficult and challenging time. We have the Brexit challenge as well, which the sector has been dealing with over the last 18 months. This has significant implications for people in the sector. As Minister, I am working closely with them to respond to this at a national level, to support them fully and to maximise the capacity of our industry nationally to grow, to develop and to add value in the years ahead. I am also fighting that battle at a European level in every way possible to improve our position within the Common Fisheries Policy, particularly with regard to the review of that policy.

I am very much aware of the challenges. I have been very much in touch and engaged with the sector and fishers with regard to the pressures. I will continue to adopt that approach over the next while and also, very importantly, engage at European level with the Commission in terms of the flexibility for supports around that.

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