I thank the Chairman and the officials of the committee for the expeditious manner in which this Bill has been dealt with. I thank my colleagues, the members of the committee, for their useful amendments. The matters raised are of value to us as we further develop the food and horticulture industry which forms a major part of our economy. We export almost €8 billion worth of food annually. We also import almost €3 billion worth of food products and, while some of these cannot be produced here, a substantial portion of them are and can. However, the supermarket shelves in Tralee, Wicklow and parts of Dublin have a range of imported products that could easily be produced at home. I would like to see a greater effort made.
While a number of years ago kitchen gardens existed, unfortunately they have now gone. We depend to a great extent on importing food. While there is traceability of the source of origin of potatoes, the amount of potatoes imported does not reflect well on us as consumers or producers. I hope the new body and the legislation we are introducing will make a contribution to us becoming more self-sufficient in many areas and give us a better opportunity to compete.
In the past 24 hours, I spoke to somebody in Japan. I asked whether a great opportunity existed for Irish food because of the avian influenza affecting poultry products and because of the outbreak of BSE in the United States. While I was advised that there was such an opportunity, when I asked specifically about pigmeat, I was told that Denmark represents the main player in the pigmeat market in Japan and we have less than 1%. We talked about going into major economies like China and, while there are great opportunities for us, we need a sophisticated industry with traceability, standards, labelling and continuity of supply. I hope through all our efforts we will make a better fist of it from here on in.