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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 14 Jul 2022

Vol. 1025 No. 5

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Tillage Sector

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

1. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his targets for land use associated with the growing of crops for 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025; and his proposed measures to reach those targets. [37920/22]

What are the Department's proposals to increase the land associated with growing crops in the coming years to reach targets?

I am a huge proponent of the tillage sector, which plays a critical role in Irish agriculture. It is a sector I have backed with new and innovative schemes and that I will continue to back into the future given its value. It provides feed for our livestock sector and materials for our food and beverage sectors.

While no specific targets are set by my Department for land use associated with the growing of crops for 2022 to 2025, I support the tillage sector through targeted policy interventions and supports.

The protein aid scheme has been implemented since 2015 with a budget of €3 million and a target payment of €250 per hectare. In Ireland’s 2023-27 CAP strategic plan, the budget has been increased to €7 million with an increased target payment of €350 per hectare. In 2021, I introduced the straw incorporation measure, which aims to improve our tillage soils. In 2022, this measure will deliver an estimated €12 million in support for the tillage crops sector. I have committed this hugely important measure as part of our next CAP strategic plan.

In response to the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia, I introduced the tillage incentive scheme with a €400 per hectare payment on additional crop area. I bolstered the existing protein scheme by guaranteeing a €300 per hectare payment on beans, peas and lupins and I also introduced a protein cereal mixed crop scheme.

These measures have been acknowledged as contributing to the estimated 6% increase in tillage area or additional 20,000 ha, in 2022. Just yesterday, at a meeting of the national fodder and food security committee, I tasked the committee with scoping out how much more grain we can grow domestically next year to build on the strong return this year.

Tillage farmers have always been leaders in their willingness to adopt new technology at farm level. The tillage capital investment scheme provides support to farmers to invest in modern equipment and infrastructure. To date, tillage farmers have received €31 million in financial support under the scheme.

I assure the Deputy that I will continue to work with this important sector and provide the targeted Government support it deserves given the importance of the sector within the wider agricultural industry.

I thank the Minister for that response. The context of this conversation has changed dramatically because the Russian invasion of Ukraine has exposed fault lines in global, EU and domestic policy on food security. Of course, Sinn Féin recognises that the Government is limited in its ability to respond to geopolitical events and global commodity markets and, therefore, any response, while needing the immediacy the Minister has mentioned for this year and next year, also needs to be long term. One area in which the Government can play a role is in incentivising increased tillage production. That requires targets. We have approximately 324,000 ha. The land under production has fallen by 42% since 1980 ,and 15% in recent years. Will the Minister examine setting targets for the sector?

I definitely want to see the area under production increase. The trend in recent years and decades where the area under tillage has shrunk is not good for Irish agriculture. We have tremendous potential to grow grain successfully and productively in this country and I want to put a big emphasis on improving that in the time ahead. Looking at the range of schemes that we have in place this year and that are plugged into the next CAP strategic plan, it is evident that support for the tillage sector is strong. It is hard to know how much we can push it. My focus is on the push and pull factors that we can put in place and to stretching the capacity to deliver as much as possible. We could set targets but it is not the target that will deliver the outcome but the schemes, the pushes and pulls that we can put in place. We have a lot of measures in place now to try to make progress. Farmers have stepped up to the mark this year and tillage farmers, in particular, have delivered that 6% increase, which is something we hope to build on.

I acknowledge that tillage production did increase by 6.1% so far this year, which I think was 78% of the objective. Approximately 13,000 ha of that related to cereal, which was just an increase of 4.5%. This is a crucially important area as I am sure the Minister recognises, including for other sectors that need feed. It makes sense if we can produce it in Ireland. It also makes sense from the perspective of reaching our climate action obligations. This is win-win if it is a win for the farmers. Many farmers moved from tillage into other sectors because tillage production was unprofitable and, therefore, the challenge is to make it profitable. There have been positive examples in my constituency. The farmers involved in Irish Organic Mill have created an industry they were told was impossible in a county like Monaghan. However, to expand and to support farmers in that endeavour we need a holistic strategy.

I have met the farmers in the Deputy's constituency who have taken that initiative. It is encouraging and shows the potential that is there. Any measure that we can take to push and maximise the potential to reverse the trend of recent years and to grow tillage again is something I will consider and promote. The straw incorporation scheme, for example, which I launched as a pilot measure for the first time last year, delivers up to €10,000 for a tillage farmer with 100 acres. That is something that I have plugged into this CAP strategic plan and, therefore, it has moved from a pilot scheme to a permanent scheme under the next CAP programme that will run up to 2027. There was a meeting of the national fodder and food security committee yesterday under the chairmanship of Mike Magan, under the advisory leadership of Dr. Frank O'Mara and all of the key agriculture stakeholders. I asked them to reflect on the progress we have made this year and to come back to me with their advice on how we can build on that next year and in the years ahead. I look forward to receiving their advice.

Horse Racing Industry

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

2. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps that he is taking to ensure that equitable funding is being given to the smaller horse racing tracks in Ireland; and his views on whether all current tracks are viable into the future. [38833/22]

What actions is the Minister taking to ensure the equitable funding of smaller horse race courses, in particular?. There are serious concerns for their future viability. Are they viable? There are concerns about data and media rights and how they are being distributed and whether that is equitable. What actions are being taken to ensure that there is equity in the distribution of funding, both capital and current?

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. Horse Racing Ireland, HRI, established under the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001 is a commercial State body responsible for the overall administration, promotion and development of the horse racing industry.

The horse and greyhound racing industries receive financial support from the State through the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund under section 12 of the Act. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine makes payments from the fund to HRI and to Rásaíocht Con Éireann, RCÉ. In the period 2001 to 2021, a total of €1.46 billion was paid from the fund to the horse and greyhound racing industries in accordance with the provisions of the Act. Exchequer support provided from the fund is crucial to the survival and continued development of the horse racing industry.

In budget 2022, an allocation of €88 million was provided for the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund. This is distributed in accordance with section 12(6) of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, with 80%, or €70.4 million, going to HRI and 20%, or €17.6 million, to RCÉ.

Horse racing in Ireland is administered on an all-island basis involving 26 racecourses. HRI has informed my Department that all 26 racecourses are affiliated to the Association of Irish Racecourses, AIR. The AIR chairperson is a board member of HRI. This board member also sits on HRI’s fixtures committee and is also the chair of HRI’s media rights committee. As the Deputy will be aware, the HRI fixture committee controls the allocation of fixtures which is key for generating income for all racecourses irrespective of their size.

HRI has also informed my Department that the merging of 26 racecourses for the sale of media rights has been key to delivering significant revenue increases over the past ten years. While the details of the media rights allocated to racecourses is commercially sensitive, overall grade 2 tracks have seen strong growth since the last deal was agreed.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I have a concern over how equitable the media rights contract is. Appearing before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and Marine on 15 June, the CEO of HRI said that it is taking the market rate. I believe this is incorrect. Since the transfer from the Turf Club, its take has more than doubled from 7% to 16%. The corresponding market rate in the UK is completely different from that in Ireland. Ultimately, the breakdown is such that the smaller tracks are not getting their fair amount of funding as a result. I will table several questions on this to break it all down. I appreciate that there may be some commercial sensitivities. Given the amount of State funding being given, it needs to be distributed equitably across racecourses in Ireland.

Smaller racecourses have gained from being aligned with the larger racecourses and this has enhanced their value. Media rights agreements are subject to approval by HRI and the 26 racecourses involved.

While I take on board the points the Deputy has raised and am happy to discuss it today, racecourses also contribute an element of their sponsorship income to prize money with bigger tracks providing a more significant percentage - at least double - with the majority of funding coming from HRI and then owners.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, HRI allowed all tracks retain whatever sponsorship they had while racing took place behind closed doors. Obviously, that was a very difficult time for racecourses.

As provided in legislation, HRI has operated several different racecourse capital schemes over the years. These investments have allowed racecourses to install fit-for-purpose infrastructure for both participants and patrons.

During the period from 2015 to 2019, a total of 23 racecourses received financial assistance from HRI under this measure involving grant aid of €29.5 million with a total investment cost of €135 million, exclusive of VAT. Grant aid was generally provided at a rate of 40%.

We need to dig deeper into this and consider smaller racecourses such as Thurles and Kilbeggan. The reality is that HRI has mainly used racecourse revenue received through the media rights fixture charge on capital programmes on the four largest racecourses, two of which it owns, at the expense of smaller rural racecourses. The Minister previously gave the direction that 50% should be used for long-term infrastructural projects, but that is not happening. We need to dig into the data and break down where the funding is going because this cannot continue. The Minister of State should go around some of the smaller racecourses and he will see some of them no longer have the infrastructure. They are not in good nick. We need to break down where the funding is going. The set-up of the current contract is not viable.

I take on board the Deputy's points and I am happy to go through this in more detail in time. As I outlined in my response, 23 of the 26 tracks have benefited from capital grants for infrastructure work.

Some €8,000.

It was 40% of the capital infrastructure. There is no doubt that smaller tracks are benefiting from being part of a larger scheme. Where is the great value in terms of media rights when media organisations are looking to buy? The larger race days will attract the highest value. It makes sense that the smaller tracks, which have days that are very important to their local communities but might not be as attractive for media coverage, also benefit from being part of that. As I mentioned previously, all 26 racecourses as well as the HRI approved that media rights deal. I would be happy to go through this in more detail in time.

Brexit Supports

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

3. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he intends to request further financial measures from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve to provide direct supports to farmers. [37921/22]

Does the Minister intend to request further financial measures from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, BAR, to provide direct support for farmers?

My Department is currently in discussion with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform about the potential for further support measures for the agrifood and fisheries sectors to address negative impacts from Brexit. The Brexit Adjustment Reserve has strict criteria that must be met to qualify for funding. In particular any proposed measures must address the direct negative impacts arising from Brexit.

A number of sectors have been adversely affected by Brexit with immediate effect. To date, measures have been funded to support the fisheries and horticulture sectors, including the new measure, the Minister of State, Senator Hackett, announced last month to support the development of the seed potato sector. A capital investment scheme to support the processing sector in diversifying into non-UK markets is also in place.

Overall, however, the value of our main agrifood exports to the UK has been resilient, with increases in many categories in 2021. Nonetheless, we will continue to monitor the impact of increased competition in the UK market for Irish food exports as a result of new UK free-trade agreements with third countries. Non-tariff barriers may also increase costs for Irish businesses exporting products to the UK. Over the coming years, these factors may increase the competitiveness challenge for Irish products on the UK market, which is why I am exploring whether BAR funding can support measures which would future-proof and build resilience in the agrifood sector. This approach is not explicitly provided for in the BAR regulation, so it requires further analysis which my Department is currently undertaking in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

I emphasise that the eligibility criteria for BAR in respect of any measures proposed must be met, as must other regular EU funding control requirements, including state aid rules.

The Minister will recall that during the Brexit negotiations, stories of Irish farming, fishing and rural communities were at the forefront not only of the Irish political approach, but also the EU's deliberations. Those stories ensured that Ireland was allocated €1 billion from the BAR. I do not believe they have received the benefit of that. I welcome that the fishing sector received a large allocation. I also welcome the €3 million allocated to the seed potato sector, something I advocated for. As the Minister said, €100 million has been provided to the processing sector. Considering all the challenges and the fact that Brexit has had an impact not just on market access but also on input costs, we need to go much further much quicker.

Brexit posed a massive challenge to our economy across the board. As the UK is the main destination for our agrifood exports, the risk factor there was massive.

The fact that there was a trade and co-operation agreement mitigated some of the worst fears we had in regard to tariff barriers and other issues. Thankfully, since Brexit, trade with the UK has been very strong, as have prices and value. Of course, there are structural challenges in regard to how that evolves over time. We are working hard to see what opportunities might be there. While the trade and co-operation agreement has protected the wider economy and sheltered agriculture, it has had a very real impact on fisheries. We are in the process of delivering up to €400 million in funding for the fisheries sector to support and invest in it. Any ideas in this regard that Deputy Carthy may have are very welcome. My ears are fully open. As he is aware, I want to support the agri-food sector in every way possible, including any mechanisms that might be there through the BAR. If Deputy Carthy has any particular suggestions, I would welcome them.

The Minister is aware that I sent my ideas to him in March in respect of the sectors that could benefit from this reserve. The difficulty is that farmers are told that there is a pot of €1 billion to support those who are impacted by Brexit, and although their sector is potentially most impacted, they have not got a fair share as of yet. We know that there are significant challenges facing the sector, in particular as a result of input costs soaring in the past year or so.

Unfortunately, the European crisis reserve was not utilised through co-financing. We have not seen the benefit of the €1.5 billion from carbon tax receipts that we were told would be additional to the CAP. Instead, they were incorporated into the CAP. In terms of the Brexit adjustment reserve, I fear that farmers will not get their fair share. Of course, I am happy to work with the Minister in any way I can to support his efforts, but can we ensure that this issue is prioritised across the Government?

As I said in my response, we are looking at that in great detail. The criteria for qualifying for the Brexit adjustment reserve are very specific. One has to show the direct impact. Thankfully, agri-food has done well since Brexit, in particular our trade with the UK. We are looking at any potential options.

In terms of any content the Deputy might have or particular suggestions, it is easy to talk about a fair share and to talk in generalities, but there is not much content or proposals in what he has said this morning.

I sent them to the Minister.

That is what my Department is looking at in great detail, because we want to support the agri-food sector in every way we can.

As Deputy Carthy is aware, in terms of the immediate cost pressures, I have provided a €56 million fodder support scheme, which delivers €1,000 to each family farm in the country up to 10 ha, directly to support the sector and farm families to deal with the cost challenges that exist. I have done it separate to the emergency support of €15 million because there is less red tape involved by going through national Exchequer funding.

Forestry Sector

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

4. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the concerns that have been consistently raised by an organisation (details supplied) regarding the forestry sector. [38552/22]

The forestry sector remains in crisis almost two years after the Minister of State, Deputy Hackett, introduced legislation to address the issue. The programme for Government set out a target of 8,000 ha of new forests per year but we are planting only 2,000 ha. The Social, Economic Environmental Forestry Association of Ireland, SEEFA, which was formed last year to represent private sector forestry in this crisis, continues to raise major issues in the industry. What is the Government doing in response?

All of us who are interested in forestry in Ireland generally share the same objectives. These are to have a well-functioning forestry licensing system, a clear and shared vision for the future of forestry in Ireland, and a new forestry programme which will encourage sustainable forest creation and management that meets societal needs.

In line with these objectives, I set up Project Woodland more than a year ago to tackle the licensing issue and the backlog and to focus on developing a new forest strategy to promote woodland creation. We have made significant progress, along with a wide range of stakeholders from the forestry sector. Among other things, we now have clarity on the regulatory framework, the definition of a backlog, and the principles which will underpin the forest strategy.

Regarding the licensing system, we have committed to issuing 5,250 licences this year. That is an ambitious target and is an increase of 30% on last year. Up to 30 June, the Department issued 2,449 licences, just short of the projected average of 2,635, which is 93% of the target we had planned to reach at this stage. We are close to or above our projected target across the individual categories of private felling, Coillte felling and roads. While afforestation is not at the same level, I fully expect the number of licences to increase in the second half of the year and for us to deliver on our projections, which have been shared with the sector.

We have made, and continue to make, improvements to our system. We have recruited extra resources, with 35 full-time ecologists now in place. We are implementing the recommendations from a business process review, with 39% of those complete or in progress. In addition, the Department is now developing an action plan for the implementation of the recommendations contained in the independent regulatory review of the forestry licensing system, with some of those already in hand.

Regarding the backlog, the Department currently has 3,148 applications on hand. Since 1 January, this figure has reduced from 4,800, and from 6,000 in August 2021. This is significant progress. The number of applications now in backlog, that is, for more than 120 days, now stands at 2,500, and we intend to maintain our momentum in reducing this number.

It is astonishing to hear the Minister of State say that she has made incredible progress in meeting the targets, because the figures speak for themselves. National afforestation rates have decreased since the formation of this Government. It is one of the reasons I voted no confidence in the Government this week. The service is currently reaching a dismal 25% of the target.

For the first six months of the year, only 297 afforestation licences were issued. That is 43% behind the Department's own target. Significant and ongoing delays in processing and making licence decisions are a major cause. Also, the sector has identified that afforestation incentives are not competitive with other farm subsidies and schemes. The Department's policy is discouraging farmers from planting more trees. The ambitious milk target in Food Harvest 2020 was met in 2017 and the beef target was met in 2011. However, at its highest, only 50% of the forestry target was reached, and it is closer to 20% today. Reports from the sector are clear, that the Government's forestry policy is dismal and there is little sign that anything will change.

I disagree. The figures I gave in my initial response show that progress is being made. We fully accept the difficulties with afforestation. We receive about eight applications per week from farmers. It is not about the throughput of the issuing of the licences, it is the interest. I accept that confidence in the sector is incredibly low among farmers and landowners. We accept that and we know we must address it. We know we have to incentivise it more. We know there are challenges to forestry from other land-use sectors. We are working, for example, towards integrating forestry as much as we can with the Common Agricultural Policy schemes. It is important that it does not become a case of either forestry or farming: it must be fully integrated. We are working incredibly hard with the sector and all of the stakeholders through Project Woodland to create a forestry programme next year that will be fit for purpose and will attract farmers and landowners into forestry. Ultimately, that is everyone's aim.

We are two years in and the Minister of State is speaking about next year.

Nothing will change unless the forthcoming forestry programme has some radical changes to overhaul the licensing system and to transfer incentives from other sectors to forestry. I cannot understand how it is not more of a priority, especially when the Green Party is in government, given that the climate benefits from carbon sequestration to compensate for net emission-producing areas are so clear.

The 2021 climate action plan recognises that afforestation is the single largest land-based climate change mitigation measure available to Ireland, yet the Government's policies are reaching a disastrous one quarter of the targets. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has already found that the climate action plan will be entirely insufficient. Now that the sectoral targets are being negotiated, with demands for a 22% cut in agricultural emissions, without sufficient forestry there is not a hope of that sectoral target being reached. I am interested to know what the Minister and his two Ministers of State think the sectoral target should be. Given the Government's track record on this, I have no confidence that it will achieve either the forestry or climate targets.

I have to agree with Deputy Cairns. This is one of the issues that we dealt with more than any other at the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I would love to see the figures the Minister of State is using because everybody in the sector says the Department will not reach the target this year. No one, other than those in the Department, is convinced the target will be reached this year. The stakeholders keep telling the Minister of State that.

Can we see the figures? Deputy Cairns is correct. The Government will not meet the target this year.

I was distracted and allowed Deputy Browne in on a priority question, which I should not have done. I apologise.

The figures are a matter of record and I am happy to share them with everyone. If the Deputies do not believe me, they can see them. We are fully aware of the necessity to increase our afforestation. We are also aware of the carbon benefits that can supply and, if they are planted correctly, the benefits to the wider environment, whether to water biodiversity, soil quality and so forth. This is why we are having continued engagement with the sector and stakeholders on our new forestry programme, which is only due to start in 2023. That is not kicking the can down the road but rather when it is due to start. The new forestry programme will last five years.

We are working hard to develop measures that are attractive for farmers, deliver for the societal needs of our country, meet our climate and biodiversity targets relating to water and so forth, and re-engage people. We accept we need to re-engage with farmers and landowners because we have significant challenges ahead, and if we do not have farmers on side, we are not going to meet any of these targets across the board. It is important we reach out and continue that engagement, and that is what myself and my ministerial colleagues are continuing to do.

Fishing Industry

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Ceist:

5. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will urgently activate the funding made available by the European Union twinned with Exchequer funding to assist the fishing industry with the energy crisis and the huge increase in fuel costs following the recent call by the seven national fishing and fish producer organisations. [37922/22]

The Minister met representatives of a range of fishing organisations, which have made an unprecedented statement, as he will be aware. All the national voices of our fishing community have united to appeal to the Government to put together a fuel package to deal with the profound crisis threatening the entire sector. When is he going to introduce such a package?

Since the publication of the report of the seafood task force in October 2021, Navigating Change, I have announced a number of support schemes for our fishing fleet and wider seafood sector and coastal communities. Between October and December 2021, a Brexit temporary fleet tie-up scheme made available supports of between €4,600 and €88,700 per month, depending on vessel size, for vessels to tie up for a calendar month. Vessels in the Rockall squid fishery could tie up for two months, which 179 vessels availed of. I introduced this tie-up scheme again in May and it will operate until November.

To further assist the fishing fleet in these difficult times the Deputy mentioned, I am allowing each vessel to receive aid for up to two months this year rather than one month, as was the case in the previous year, despite the sea fisheries task force having recommended just one month for this year too. A total of 67 vessel owners availed of that in June and 43 in July. For the inshore fleet, a Brexit inshore fisheries business model adjustment scheme operated from January to March and was availed of by 754 inshore fishing vessel owners, delivering between €2,700 and €4,000. We have also announced a €45 million Brexit processing capital support scheme and, for coastal communities, a €25 million Brexit blue economy enterprise development scheme to deliver grants of up to €200,000 for capital investments in coastal areas.

There are specific challenges at the moment with regard to fuel and the impact coming from Ukraine. Unlike in other sectors, no excise duty is charged on marine fuel and VAT on marine fuel is reclaimable and, therefore, there is no Government take in respect of the fuel. In effect, the industry is seeking a subsidy to help meet the undoubtedly significant cost. I met representatives and had a strong, in-depth conversation with them, and I am considering the submissions they made to me.

As the Minister will be aware, it was agreed in Europe that there would be a financial aid package from last March but the Government did not avail of it. Another one has been voted for and announced in recent days and the Government needs to avail of it. The Minister referred to the Brexit Adjustment Reserve fund earlier and a tie-up scheme to compensate for the decommissioning of our fleet and the loss of so much of our quota. That is totally separate from the issues that have emerged in the context of the impact of the Russian war on Ukraine.

I cannot put this starkly enough, although I appreciate the Minister has met representatives. This is unprecedented. All the fishing organisations nationally, including IFA aquaculture and inshore and offshore representatives, have united and used the strongest language to say they cannot go to sea or meet their responsibilities to the food sector. The EU is not looking to tie up boats; it wants people to go out to sea to provide food for the European economy. When is the Minister going to help them do that?

I would not say it is unprecedented for the fishing organisations to come together to speak on the same issue and deliver the same message. The challenge relating to fuel is one we have been dealing with for some months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I previously met all those organisations together to discuss this issue. Their request to me in March and April was for a second tie-up scheme. The seafood fisheries task force had recommended only a one-month tie-up scheme for this year, but the fishers' representatives asked me for two and I responded to that by delivering a second one. Through that, we delivered €25 million in funding to the sector, allowing one in three vessels in any one month to tie up and the other two vessels that were out fishing to avail of the quota that was freed up as a result. They asked me specifically for that given the challenging cost backdrop that exists due to fuel and so on, and I responded and delivered. I met them again on the continuing issues a week ago and I am considering the challenges. I know very much from talking to fishers the pressure they are under from a cost point of view and I am considering that strongly.

The Minister knows that in France and Spain, there has been a significant intervention, which has certainly helped their fleets. When I say "unprecedented", as the Minister will be aware, I mean all the producer organisations, including all those from the islands, IFA aquaculture representatives and fisheries local action groups. I have never seen every organisation unite. Some of them have certainly united previously but this is all of them, the entire sector, uniting to tell the Minister they cannot go to sea or afford all the input costs they face. This is an unprecedented crisis on the back of a loss of quota due to Brexit. To be clear, the BAR fund is a separate matter to intervening now in what is a serious threat to the future of our industry, as the Minister will know having met fishers. They cannot afford to go to sea.

The fuel price at which they can make a profit is 60 cent per litre but it now costs €1.30 per litre. That is an impossible challenge for them and there has to be some form of financial aid package to keep them at sea.

As I said, it is not unprecedented because representatives of all those same organisations met me in March and April to discuss exactly the same challenges, and their proposal and ask of me then was for a second month of the tie-up scheme, which I delivered on. Such a scheme is not in place in other countries that have been impacted by Brexit, although without doubt they have been impacted to a lesser extent than us. That was their specific request to me then and I delivered on it. I met them again as recently as last week for further discussions on this.

I reiterate there is no Government tax on marine diesel. There is VAT but it is fully reclaimable, so any support that is delivered will actually subsidise the net cost, minus tax, of fuel. Undoubtedly, the margins are such for many fishermen at the moment that they cannot make a profit or are very challenged in that regard. I have been listening to and engaging with them, which I will continue to do, and I will consider the submissions they have made to me.

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