Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, answered orally.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions Nos. 8 to 13, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (7)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

7. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the budget and spending of his Department in expanding the trade in dairy and beef herds internationally since 2010. [3773/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Food Wise 2025, the ten-year strategy for the agrifood sector, underlines the sector’s unique and special position within the Irish economy, identifies the opportunities and challenges facing the sector and illustrates the potential for further sustainable development.

The expert committee, that prepared the Food Wise 2025 Strategy, believed that the following projections are achievable by 2025: increasing the value of agrifood exports by 85% to €19 billion; increasing value-added in the sector by 70% to in excess of €13 billion; and increasing the value of primary production by 65% to almost €10 billion. With regard to employment, Food Wise foresees the creation of 23,000 additional jobs in the agrifood sector all along the supply chain from primary production to higher value added product development.

These projections relate primarily to increasing the added-value of agrifood exports.

Market development – developing new markets and growing existing markets, based on market insights – is one of the five themes of Food Wise, along with environmental sustainability, competitiveness, innovation and human capital. Obviously market development and diversification is also a key response to the challenges which Brexit poses for the sector.

In April 2017 I launched a seven point action plan on market access. This is being implemented through a variety of actions, including:

- a market prioritisation exercise and subsequent detailed studies carried out by Bord Bia on behalf of my Department. On meat the five countries selected for detailed study were: Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Mexico & Malaysia; and for dairy: Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia & Vietnam.

- A market access web portal launched in May 2018, and available on my Department’s website provides a wide range of valuable information to exporters.

Trying to gain new market access, or enhance and improve existing market access has been a particularly prominent feature of recent Ministerial Trade Missions led by myself and my colleague Andrew Doyle. Trade missions over the last two years have focused on key growth markets:

- Asia – China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia;

- North America – USA, Mexico and Canada;

- as well as the Gulf States and Turkey.

In 2018 a number of additional markets were opened by my Department including the Chinese beef market, which was successfully opened after ongoing work over a number of years, as well as beef, sheepmeat and poultry markets in Kuwait and Qatar.

Since the Brexit vote in 2016, I have allocated significant additional funding for Bord Bia, as a key part of the Government’s efforts to support the sector in responding to Brexit uncertainty. In Estimates 2019, I provided a further allocation of €5.3 million to Bord Bia, bringing its total grant in aid to €46.6 million for 2019. This compares to a grant of €28.9 million in 2014, and represents a 60% increase in funding for marketing and promotion of our food offering over five years. Bord Bia also received approval last year to recruit an additional 32 staff, which will bring total staff numbers to 146 in 2019.

In Budget 2019, I secured €20 million for a new Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot targeted at suckler farmers and specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production. This Pilot complements the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), an agri-environmental measure specifically targeted at improving the genetic merit of the suckler herd, which provides Irish beef farmers with some €300 million in funding over the current Rural Development Programme (RDP) period.

All of these efforts are aimed at adding value all along the supply chain, supporting the agrifood sector as the most important indigenous sector, providing employment and supporting communities throughout rural Ireland.

Questions Nos. 8 to 13, inclusive, answered orally.

Fish Landings

Ceisteanna (14)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

14. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the designation of ports in County Donegal to allow fish landings ahead of a potential hard Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5623/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Under EU regulations, vessels from a non-EU country may only land fish at a limited number of ‘designated’ ports. This is to aid control and compliance and to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activity.

There are currently two Irish ports that have been designated for landings by vessels from a third country: Killybegs in Donegal and Castletownbere in Cork.

When the UK formally becomes a third country and the Common Fisheries Policy no longer applies to it, UK registered vessels will be restricted to landing fish at those two ports. The vast majority of current UK fish landings are to those ports.

However, if, as I very much hope will be the case, the Withdrawal Agreement is concluded, a transition period will apply where there will be no change to current practices for Irish or UK vessels for at least 2 years.

If, in the worst case scenario, no agreement is reached and there is a disorderly Brexit, then the UK will leave on the 29th of March 2019. In that scenario, UK vessels would be restricted to landing in the two designated ports only from that date.

Brexit Staff

Ceisteanna (15)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

15. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of SPS and fisheries control officials who will be operational on 29 March 2019, out of the planned recruitment of 116 staff for SPS and fisheries controls as agreed on 18 September 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5725/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department is participating very actively in the Whole-of-Government approach to preparedness and contingency planning for Brexit. The Government has already sanctioned in the region of €4m for the commencement of a phased process for the recruitment of additional staff to carry out increased volumes of import controls and export certification arising from Brexit.

These requirements are significant, and arise in relation to the carrying out of documentary, identity and physical checks on imports of animals, plants, and products of animal and plant origin, as set out in EU legislation. The Department has carried out an extensive analysis exercise, based on examination of trade and container movement data, to establish the potential volumes of controls that will need to be carried out. This exercise has been used to guide our planning in relation to putting in place the staff that will be required.

In general, regarding staffing requirements, my Department will look to use a combination of options including recruitment, redeployment and temporary flexible solutions where appropriate and as necessary. My Department is working with our recruitment partners, the Public Appointments Service to engage Veterinary Inspectors, Portal Inspectors, Plant Health Inspectors and Administrative support staff. Mechanisms to temporarily redeploy experienced people within my Department have also been initiated and the engagement of contracted temporary service arrangements is also being progressed.

The final staffing numbers to be engaged in response to Brexit contingencies will depend on the nature of Brexit and the trading relationship with the UK that ensues. Should a hard Brexit be confirmed as the probable contingency to be addressed, my Department, through the mechanisms I have outlined, will have scope to deploy appropriate levels of resources as may be required. Overall, I remain confident that both the state, and my Department, will be in a position to deliver the services required in terms of both imports and exports at the appropriate time, be that at the end of March or any other point in the future.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Ceisteanna (16)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

16. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the priorities for the climate change mitigation measures needed in the agriculture sector; the measurable targets for each quarter of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5485/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department is actively engaged as part of the whole of Government approach to transitioning to a low-carbon, competitive, sustainable and climate resilient economy and society.

The National Mitigation Plan (NMP) has identified a series of mitigation actions and measures for the agriculture and land use sector including forestry including timelines for delivery. These measures not only focus on the mitigation of greenhouse gases and improving resource efficiency but are also aimed at restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems related to building resilience of agricultural production systems (i.e. adaptation).

The long term vision for the agricultural sector is an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. Our policy approach is based on three principles:

i. reducing agricultural emissions ;

ii. increasing carbon sequestration; and

iii. displacing and substituting fossil fuel and energy intensive materials.

There are a significant number of measures already in place which support these principles. However, I am not complacent on this important issue and my Department continues to review and develop new measures that will realise the ambition for the sector.

An All-of-Government Plan to tackle climate disruption, which my colleague the Minister for Communication, Climate Action and Energy is currently leading on, will build on the National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan and identify additional actions so as to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change.

I will continue to work with my government colleagues to ensure the successful delivery of this plan and commit to measures and actions that will support our approach to carbon neutrality without compromising capacity for sustainable food production.

While the mitigation potential for agriculture is limited, agriculture can and must play a key role in contributing to Ireland's climate change and energy targets in the years ahead

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (17)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

17. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to improve beef prices and protect the sector from Brexit; the area to target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5445/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My efforts to improve the position of beef farmers and to protect the sector from Brexit have been focused on improving the sector's competitiveness and its ability to diversify markets in order to reduce exposure to the UK market.

The measures I have introduced include a €150m low-cost loan scheme in 2017 to help reduce farm-gate business costs, and a dedicated €50m Brexit package in Budget 2018 which included further additional funding to Bord Bia and Teagasc as well as a contribution to a €300m (joint DAFM/DBEI) “Brexit Loan Scheme”, at least 40% of which is available to food businesses. In Budget 2019 I announced a €78m Brexit package for farmers, fishermen, food SMEs and to cover additional costs related to Brexit. My colleague, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, also announced the Future Growth Loan Scheme, which will be rolled out in 2019 and for which I had made provision of €25m in 2018. The scheme will provide long term, unsecured investment finance for farmers and small scale companies in the food and seafood sectors.

On market and product diversification, the additional funding that I have provided to Bord Bia has been used, inter alia, to provide targeted advice to individual companies as well as to conduct a market prioritisation exercise which is now informing our approach to market diversification activities, including the choice of destinations for Trade Missions.

Trade Missions play an important role in this regard, and I have been very active on this front in recent years as we strive to gain, and then develop, a presence in as many global markets as possible. I have led very successful missions to the Gulf Region, the US, Mexico, Japan and Korea in 2017, and to the US, Canada, China, Indonesia and Malaysia 2018. These missions included participants from across the agrifood sector and featured extensive trade contacts as well as high-level political discussions. These and the other missions that my Department has under consideration for 2019 will serve to enhance and improve our existing levels of market access in these destinations. Indeed, since the UK referendum I have increased Bord Bia’s funding by a total of €19.5 million, including a further €5 million allocated in Budget 2019.

Product diversification has also been supported through additional funding of €8.8 million to Teagasc to develop its National Food Innovation Hub, and funding to support investment in the prepared consumer foods sector.

I and my officials have also been working very hard for quite some time to sensitise other Member States and the European Commission to the potentially very severe impacts of Brexit on the Irish beef and other sectors, and to the likelihood of specific supports being required in order to deal with these impacts. The institutions of the European Union are very well aware of the likelihood of a significant impact of a disorderly Brexit on Ireland’s economy because this has been part of the discussion from the beginning, and indeed this is explicitly recognised in the Commission’s own communication on contingency planning.

Most recently, I held a bilateral meeting with Commissioner Hogan last week to discuss the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit. We discussed the unique exposure of sectors such as the beef sector to the threat of a disorderly Brexit, and the challenges that it could present. I stressed the need to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and processors, including through traditional market supports and exceptional aid under the CAP's Single Common Market Organisation regulation, and increased flexibility under State Aid regulations. Commissioner Hogan reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland, and we will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.

I have also met with the chief executives of all of the major British retailers to impress upon them the commitment of Irish suppliers in continuing to supply the UK market post-Brexit.

I wish to assure the Deputy that the Government remains very focused on supporting the agrifood industry, including the beef industry, through the challenges ahead.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (18)

Pat Deering

Ceist:

18. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of action being taken to prepare for Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5722/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I have been addressing Brexit challenges through a range of Budgetary measures aimed at improving competitiveness, and developing market and product diversification. These measures include a €150m low-cost loan scheme in 2017 to help reduce farm-gate business costs, a dedicated €50m Brexit package in Budget 2018, and a €78m Brexit package for farmers, fishermen, food SMEs in Budget 2019. My colleague, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, also announced the Future Growth Loan Scheme, which will be rolled out in 2019 and for which I had made provision of €25m in 2018. The scheme will provide long term, unsecured investment finance for farmers and small scale companies in the food and seafood sectors.

On market and product diversification, the additional funding that I have provided to Bord Bia has been used, inter alia, to provide targeted advice to individual companies as well as to conduct a market prioritisation exercise which is now informing our approach to market diversification activities, including the choice of destinations for Trade Missions. Product diversification has also been supported through additional funding of €8.8 million to Teagasc to develop its National Food Innovation Hub, and funding to support investment in the prepared consumer foods sector.

I and my officials have also been working very hard for quite some time to sensitise other Member States and the European Commission to the potentially very severe impacts of Brexit on the Irish agrifood and fisheries sectors, and to the likelihood of specific supports being required in order to deal with these impacts.

Most recently, I held a bilateral meeting with Commissioner Hogan last week to discuss the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit on the Irish agrifood and fisheries sectors. Commissioner Hogan reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond and support Ireland, and we will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.

As regards contingency planning, my Department has been actively participating in the Whole-of-Government approach to preparedness and contingency planning. We have fed into the overall Government Contingency Action Plan which was published on 19 December, and we have been working very closely with colleagues in other Departments and agencies to address in particular the requirements that will arise in relation to the implementation at ports and airports of import controls on agrifood products coming from the UK.

Work in this regard has been focused on three key areas, namely, infrastructure, staffing and information technology, and in three key locations, that is Dublin Port, Rosslare Port and Dublin Airport.

Throughout all of this work, the focus of the Department will continue to be on the need to discharge its legal responsibilities while ensuring the minimum possible disruption to trade.

TAMS Funding

Ceisteanna (19)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

19. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to spend the €11.6 million in TAMS approved funding that has lapsed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5707/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

There is a budget in place of €395m for the suite of seven measures available under TAMS II for the duration of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. Expenditure to date amounts to over €109m with over €5.6m issuing last December and a further €7.3m issuing in January just gone.

My Department is closely monitoring expenditure, including expired approvals, under the scheme. By the end of 2018 approvals had expired with a grant value of approximately €11.8m - this appears to be the figure referred to in the question raised. However, I should point out that to date a total of 18,317 approvals have issued with a total estimated grant value of over €276m. All of these cases represent committed expenditure under the TAMS II measure of the RDP. Until such time as issued approvals are acted upon and payment claims submitted or approvals expire the budget for TAMS must include provision for the potential expenditure involved. I have also committed to keeping the scheme open for applications until end-2020 and must retain budget to allow this to happen in the interests of fairness to current and future applicants. It is anticipated that, based on the number of applications and payment claims being received, the full allocation of €395m will be spent over the course of the RDP. It must also be remembered that TAMs is only one scheme under our overall Rural Development Programme which as things stand is projected to overspend by €105m.

I have recently introduced changes to the Scheme, with meal bins now added to the long list of eligible investment items for all sectors under the Scheme and a favourable revision of the penalties applied for the late submission of payment claims. The Scheme also remains open for new applications with the current tranche due to close on 5 April this year. Applications continue to be received and processed under the Scheme with approvals currently issuing to the over 2,000 farmers who submitted applications under the tranche that closed on 7 December 2018. I am pleased to note that the level of applications received shows that there is an increasing level of interest in the Scheme. I would urge all participants who have completed approved works to submit their payment claims immediately to facilitate early payment.