Live Exports

Ceisteanna (20)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

20. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which live exports have performed in 2018 and to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5720/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Live exports are a critical part of the infrastructure of our livestock industry. They play a significant role in stimulating price competition and provide an alternative market outlet for farmers. My Department facilitates this trade, recognising its critical importance to the agri sector, while ensuring that live animal exports meet the highest welfare standards.

Live exports of cattle increased by 30% over 2017, to 246,000 head. This change was driven by a significant increase in exports to other EU countries. Calf exports increased significantly. In 2017 I reduced the veterinary inspection fee payable on live exports of calves under 3 months of age from €4.80 to €1.20 - this has brought greater equity to the inspection fee regime. Calf exports to Spain increased by 66%, to over 72,500 head in 2018. Exports of Irish calves to Italy and the Netherlands also increased last year, to over 12,500 and 48,500 head, respectively. Calf exports to Belgium and France increased from 4,200 to 13,000 head and from 2,500 to 8,500 head, from 2017 to 2018 respectively. Exports to third countries decreased in 2018 – due in part to currency fluctuations in the Turkish Lira. Nevertheless, nearly 13,000 head of cattle were exported to Turkey last year.

In the first three weeks of this year live exports came to 3,500, up from 1,400 in the same period in 2018. Northern Ireland and Spain have been the largest markets for live exports so far in 2019, with 1,200 and 1,600 head of cattle, respectively.

My Department continues to engage with third countries and to seek out new markets for live exports. New health certs for the export of cattle to Libya were agreed in November 2018, which increase the range of cattle that can be exported there. My Department is engaged with Egypt to secure the finalisation of agreement on three proposed health certs for the export of fattening, slaughter and breeding cattle.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Ceisteanna (21)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

21. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if policy on dairy and beef herd growth for export can be compatible with Ireland's plans to become a leader on climate change measures in view of the recent report in a publication (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3308/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Food Wise 2025, the ten-year strategy for the agri-food 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 agri-food 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 agri-food 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 agri-food exports. Furthermore, the direct payments in Ireland have been decoupled from productions so now the payment is no longer contingent on the number of animals retained.

Ireland has a comparative advantage in grass-based carbon efficient livestock production. The EU Commission JRC report (2010) found that Ireland is the most carbon efficient producer in the EU per unit of dairy production, and the 5th most carbon efficient producer of beef per kg. Government efforts are focused on driving towards even greater carbon efficiency through Origin Green Quality Assurance Schemes, and schemes such as BDGP and BEEP, as well as knowledge transfer.

My Department is pursuing a policy of ensuring that supports to the beef sector explicitly support and encourage suckler farmers to make the best decisions possible to improve both the economic and environmental efficiency of their farming system. The Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) is improving the environmental sustainability by increasing genetic merit within the suckler beef herd. I recently launched the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP), a €20 million pilot scheme specifically aimed at further improving the carbon efficiency of beef production from the suckler herd, by measuring the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves.

On the dairy side, Dairy Sustainability Ireland (DSI) is a collaborative initiative established to help farmers meet environmental targets, improve profitability and copper fasten Ireland’s reputation as a world leader in grass-fed dairy production. This work has in turn contributed to the development of the Agricultural Sustainability Support & Advisory Programme, a collaborative initiative to facilitate improvements in water quality.

While we are making progress, there is no room for complacency – the agri-food sector must continue to make improvements in terms of sustainability and environmental performance. Collaboration, co-operation and collective responsibility are necessary to meet the challenges that are facing us. I am convinced that we must all work together to ensure that the sector continues to play its part in meeting our climate obligations and challenges.

Greyhound Industry

Ceisteanna (22)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

22. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is engaging in Europe-wide discussions on the export and welfare of greyhounds, in particular to countries with little or no welfare standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5486/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The vast majority of dogs that are moved from Ireland go to the UK. Under EU law, dogs moved to another EU country from Ireland must be accompanied by an EU pet passport, be microchipped, and have a valid rabies vaccination.

The welfare of greyhounds is regulated by the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 and the Animal Health and Welfare Act of 2013. The latter applies to all animals, whether kept for commercial, domestic, sport, show or other purposes. It contains robust measures against the ill-treatment of animals.

The Greyhound Racing Bill 2018, when enacted, will add to existing legislation, making the greyhound the most regulated of all canine breeds in Ireland. The Bill ensures that the principles of good governance and regulation are clearly and unambiguously laid down in primary legislation. In broad terms the Bill seeks to address deficiencies in the existing legislation and the governance of Bord na gCon. It will strengthen regulatory controls in the industry, modernise sanctions and improve integrity with a view to building a reputation for exceptional regulation in the sector.

My Department has a close working relationship with animal welfare charities on all aspects of animal welfare. Officials of my Department meet regularly with welfare members of the International Greyhound Forum, which includes the Dogs Trust, the ISPCA and Bord na gCon, to consider issues surrounding the export of greyhounds.

Bord na gCon is the State Body responsible for the governance, regulation and development of the greyhound industry in Ireland. It is opposed to exports of greyhounds to countries that do not meet Ireland’s welfare standards. This is a view that I fully endorse.

Common Agricultural Policy Subsidies

Ceisteanna (23)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

23. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on a €60,000 ceiling for direct payments under the next CAP in order to safeguard small and medium-sized farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5726/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The new legislative proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy 2021 - 2027 were launched on Friday 1 June 2018 by Commissioner Hogan. The proposals, as drafted, involve significant changes, including in relation to governance, the distribution of direct payments among farmers and the increasing environmental conditionality attaching to such payments. There will be additional discretion for Member States in configuring the measures available, within parameters laid down in the draft proposals. The new proposals must commit to a more significant environmental ambition than the current CAP schemes, including in pillar I.

Significant changes are being proposed in the draft legislation, particularly when it comes to the area of direct payments. The new proposals include a number of measures relating to distribution of payments, including an overall cap of €100,000, degressivity for payments above €60,000, a complementary redistributive income support and the convergence of payments towards a minimum of 75% of the average payment per hectare nationally.

I have already indicated that I am open to some level of capping. Ireland has already applied the maximum level of degressivity allowable under the current regulations for direct payments over €150,000.

My Department is at present examining these proposals carefully to assess their potential impact on applicants. We need to ensure that any such mechanisms will be simple and straightforward for Member States to administer and that they can be implemented without undue complexity for the farmer.

These are complex proposals. We are in the midst of intensive and challenging negotiations and we still have some way to go before agreement on the proposals will be reached. I will continue to work with the Commission and other Member States to shape these proposals into an effective new CAP.

Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

Ceisteanna (24)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

24. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his priorities for hill farmers under the new CAP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5624/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

In June 2018, the European Commission published the legislative proposals for the CAP post 2020. The proposals as drafted involve changes in a number of areas including governance and distribution of direct payments. These proposals are not yet finalised and are the subject of negotiations in Brussels.

Member States will have to prepare National CAP Strategic Plans setting out their planned interventions for the sector. There has been ongoing consultation with all stakeholders, including representatives of hill farmers, on the proposals and I can assure the Deputy that this will continue as the national CAP Strategic Plan begins to be developed.

A noteworthy feature of the proposals is their emphasis on the role agriculture has to play in helping Member States achieve their environmental and climate change targets. There is an increased environmental ambition for the CAP post 2020.

There are a number of new approaches to addressing environmental issues through the CAP including:-

- The mandatory provision of eco-schemes, as part of the Pillar I direct payments,

- The inclusion of greater environmental conditionality on EU payments with links to requirements such as the Water Framework Directive and proposals for mandatory nutrient management plans.

- 30% of the Rural Development Programme expenditure, excluding payments for areas of natural constraints, must be focused on biodiversity/environment/climate related measures.

- Three of the nine key objectives set for the CAP post 2020 concern the environment.

- An ex ante assessment for the plan must incorporate a strategic environmental assessment.

I believe that protecting the environment and the sustainable development of agriculture go hand in hand. Farmers play a vital role in the provision of public goods and need to be adequately recognised and recompensed for this role. It is important that the overall level of the EU CAP budget is maintained in order to recognise these public goods being delivered from all farmers, including hill farmers.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (25)

James Browne

Ceist:

25. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if an application has been submitted to the European Commission to designate Rosslare Europort as a designated border inspection posts in preparation for the possibility of the UK becoming a third country with the EU in 2019 in a no-deal Brexit scenario; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5466/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Officials from my Department are currently working on a submission that will be sent to the European Commission to facilitate the listing of Rosslare Port as a border inspection post in the relevant European legislation. Rosslare Port will be listed for the importation of animal products and live animals.

This submission comes as a result of the work that my Department has been undertaking to assess the infrastructure requirements at ports and airports that handle consignments of plants, animals, plant and animal products from the United Kingdom. This work is part of a co-ordinated Government wide approach involving the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Department of Health and the Office of Public Works.

The Commission has requested that this submission be with the relevant officials on or before the 15th of February and my officials are working to this deadline.

Common Agricultural Policy

Ceisteanna (26)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

26. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which he will view the new CAP taking into account climate change obligations of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5626/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The new legislative proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy 2021 - 2027 were launched on Friday 1 June 2018 by Commissioner Hogan. The proposals outline a greater environmental ambition post 2020 and recognise the role the agriculture sector has to play in helping Member States achieve their environmental and climate change targets.

The new CAP reform proposals require Member States to set out their approach on environmental issues in the new CAP Strategic Plans.

There are a number of new approaches to addressing environmental issues through the CAP including:-

- Three of the nine key objectives set for the CAP post 2020 concern the environment.

- An ex ante assessment for the plan must incorporate a strategic environmental assessment.

- The proposals include greater environmental conditionality on EU payments with links to requirements such as the Water Framework Directive and proposals for mandatory nutrition management plans.

- 40% of the overall CAP budget must contribute to climate mainstreaming.

- Member States must make schemes available as part of the direct payments that provide additional supports for eco schemes which go beyond the increased statutory management requirements and good agricultural and environmental conditions.

- Nationally 30% of the Rural Development Programme expenditure, excluding payments for areas of natural constraints, must be focused on biodiversity/environment/climate related measures.

- Noncompliance with statutory management requirements and standards for good agricultural and environmental conditions of land in the areas of climate and environmental, public health, animal health, plant health and animal welfare will require an administrative penalty.

There are ten Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAEC’s) covering a range of issues including permanent grassland, protection of wetland and peatland, and nutrient management plans. There are sixteen proposed Statutory Management Requirements. These concern compliance with a number of Directives including the Water Framework Directive, the Nitrates Directive and the Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds.

I firmly support the principle that there must be a high level of environmental ambition in the CAP post 2020. I believe that protecting the environment and the sustainable development of agriculture go hand in hand. However it is essential that the new environmental conditionality is implemented effectively, with common standards that are relevant and effective.

The new CAP proposals will be a key support in enhancing the competitiveness of the agri-food sector, achieving more sustainable management of natural resources and ensuring a more balanced development of rural areas. In addition, I believe that farmers play a vital role in the provision of public goods and need to be adequately recognised and recompensed for this role. It is important that the overall level of the budget acknowledges the public goods being delivered from farmers. The negotiations for the CAP post 2020 are still ongoing and I will continue to seek to secure the best possible outcome for the Irish agri-food sector.

Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (27)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

27. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if national forestry supports are being reviewed in view of concerns in communities in County Leitrim and other areas relating to coniferous clear-fell forests. [5705/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Government policy on forestry is to increase species diversity by means of targeted supports and measures within the nationally funded afforestation programme. The current programme expires at the end of 2020. Publicly funded afforestation has been a central part of Government policy for many years now given the many benefits which forestry presents, not least for our rural economy and for the environment and climate policies.

The supports available were reviewed as part of the Mid-Term Review of the programme, which concluded in 2018. Following the review a 7% increase in grant and 5% increase in premium rates were introduced for broadleaf planting categories. Increased rates for Agro forestry and forestry for fibre categories were also introduced. In addition the minimum mandatory requirement for broadleaf planting per site was increased from 10% to 15%, with a resultant increase in the percentage planted in 2018 to 27%, up from 21% in 2017. My Department has also introduced the first ever continuous cover forestry scheme in Ireland this month as part of a suite of biodiversity related measures in order to give landowners more options when it comes to felling.

It's worth noting that all forests have an important role in climate action through the removal and storage of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and by supplying sustainable and renewable materials that support the decarbonisation of our economy. Under the Effort Sharing Regulation covering the period 2021 to 2030, Ireland has the ability to account up to 26.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide removals by the land use sector towards our emission reduction targets. Removals of greenhouse gases by afforested land are forecast to amount to 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over this period.

As regards Co. Leitrim, my colleague Minister Andrew Doyle announced a study last week. This evidence-based review will assess the impacts of forestry in the county, both positive and negative and will help to inform both the local community and Government policy on forestry, rural development and land use.

Common Agricultural Policy Subsidies

Ceisteanna (28)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

28. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to ensure that the next round of CAP funding, both EU and Exchequer funding, matches the present round of funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5446/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

At the outset, I would like to point out that in discussing the funding of the Common Agricultural Policy, we should bear in mind that this funding forms part of a broader EU budget which is negotiated by Finance Ministers and then agreed by Heads of State and Government at the European Council.

The European Commission has proposed, as part of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027, that funding for the Common Agricultural Policy should be set at €365 billion. This equates to a cut of approximately 5% to the CAP budget in the next MFF period of 2021 - 2027. I have previously stated that the proposed cut is unacceptable for Ireland.

Negotiations on the MFF proposals have commenced and are running in parallel to the CAP post 2020 negotiations. The European Commission's intention is to reach overall agreement on the MFF before the European Parliamentary elections in 2019.

The MFF is a critical matter for all Member States and its agreement requires unanimity at the EU Council. It is clear that there are divergent views among member states on the appropriate level for the budget. While some Member States (including Ireland) have indicated their willingness to increase their contributions, once they contribute towards areas of added European value, there are others who feel equally strongly that the current proposals, such as they are, are too costly.

The departure of the UK from the EU further compounds the budgetary issue, with some €12 billion per annum in UK nett contributions being removed from the budget post 2020. Against this background, agreeing the MFF will make these negotiations a particularly challenging task.

I have been working to build consensus among my agriculture colleagues in Europe with regard to maintaining the CAP budget. I co-signed a Joint Memorandum in Madrid in May last year, which calls for the CAP budget to be retained at current levels for the EU 27 post 2020. The memorandum has been supported by up to 20 other EU Agriculture Ministers. We will continue to work together on this issue as the negotiations for the CAP post 2020 and its budgetary allocations progress.

I have also sought to continue this work as part of ongoing bilateral meetings. Since May 2018, my colleague Minister Doyle and I have met initially with the EU Agri Ministers from Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Hungary, inter alia to support a strong CAP Budget after 2020. I have also met with Ministers from the Netherlands, Estonia, Belgium, Poland, Luxembourg, and Austria, and my officials engage regularly with counterparts in other member states on this issue.

Ireland needs to work closely with its EU colleagues to build a consensus around the need to reverse the proposed cuts in CAP. I would like to reassure the deputy that I will continue to do this, and to fight for a strong CAP budget as the negotiations progress.

Live Exports

Ceisteanna (29)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

29. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the recent progress in the development of live export markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5711/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

In 2018 live exports of cattle increased by over 30% to 246,000 head compared to the previous year.

My Department continues to seek out new markets for live exports and to facilitate this trade by reaching agreement on health certification.

In November my Department reached agreement with Libya on a new veterinary health certificate for the export of breeding cattle, and an amended veterinary certificate for the export of fattening and slaughter cattle. Having an agreed health cert for breeding cattle provides much more clarity for exporters, as previously exports of breeding cattle to Libya had to be agreed on a load by load basis. The age of cattle that can be exported to Libya increased, from 24 to 30 months – this increases opportunities for exporters to export a wider range of cattle.

In January, my Department reached agreement with Qatar on a health cert for the export of sheep for slaughter.

I have extended an invitation to my Algerian counterpart to visit Ireland in early 2019. This follows earlier contact with Algeria, to try and reach agreement on revised and separate slaughter, fattening and breeding certs.

In relation to Egypt, the Chief Veterinary Officer recently wrote to his counterpart seeking agreement on three proposed health certificates for the export of fattening, slaughter and breeding cattle.

It may be recalled that in 2017, I reduced the veterinary inspection fee payable on live exports of calves less than three months of age to €1.20 per animal. This brought greater equity in the fees payable for calves, weanlings and adult cattle and gave an important boost to the trade. Since then we have continued to see significant growth in the exports of calves, rising from 102,000 in 2017 to 159,000 in 2018 - an increase of 56%. In the same period the total live exports of cattle increased by over 30% to 246,000 head compared to 2017.

Despite these many positive developments for live export markets, I am also well aware of the challenges faced by the sector, including transport capacity and lairage capacity at Cherbourg. My Department officials visited Cherbourg in September last year to discuss the capacity issue with French officials and local lairage owners. My officials continue to meet with ferry companies to explore new routes to continental Europe or the potential for carrying livestock on existing routes, and to ensure that the greatest facilitation possible is afforded to livestock exporters in the important Spring period. The pending approval of a new ferry will contribute to addressing capacity issues.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (30)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

30. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of food companies that have been sanctioned funding under the Brexit working capital loan scheme; the value of same; when the long-term capital loan scheme announced in budget 2018 for farmers, fishermen and food businesses will open for applications in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5723/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme was developed in cooperation with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), to provide working capital support to enable eligible Irish businesses to implement the necessary changes to address the challenges posed by Brexit. The Scheme opened for applications on 28 March 2018 and it will remain open until 31st March 2020.

It provides for loans of €25,000 to €1,500,000 per eligible enterprise at a maximum interest rate of 4%, ranging from 1 year to 3 years, with unsecured loans up to €500,000. The loans can be used for future working capital requirements or to fund innovation, change or adaptation of the business to mitigate the impact of Brexit.

Applications for eligibility assessment must be made to the SBCI who, on approval, assign an eligibility reference number. This reference number along with the loan application may then be provided to a participating lender.

At 1 February, there were 394 eligibility applications received, of which 350 are approved and 9 are ineligible. The total number of loans progressed to sanction at bank level is 69 to a value of €15.7m, 9 of which relate to food businesses with a total value of €3.9m.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme has been developed by my Department and DBEI in partnership with the Department of Finance, the SBCI and the European Investment Fund (EIF). It will be delivered through participating finance providers and make up to €300 million of investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including farmers and the agri-food & seafood sectors. The loans will be competitively priced and will be for terms of 8-10 years and will support strategic long-term investment in a post-Brexit environment.

This is a long-awaited source of finance for young and new entrant farmers, especially the cohort who do not have high levels of security. It will also serve smaller-scale farmers, who often do not have the leverage to negotiate for more favourable terms with their banking institution.

SBCI has just issued an open call inviting banks and other lenders to become lending partners and this call has a closing date of 11 February 2019. SBCI advise that a period of due diligence, which will include the EIF, will follow. I have urged SBCI to operationalise the Scheme as soon as possible. The Scheme will run for three years from its launch date and further announcements in this regard will be made shortly.

Beef Environmental Efficiency Scheme Pilot

Ceisteanna (31)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

31. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the details of the beef environmental efficiency pilot; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5713/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I launched the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot on 30 January. The launch was covered in the agriculture media. Applications for participation in the pilot will be accepted from 4th to 22nd of February.

The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP ) is a targeted support for suckler farmers and is specifically aimed at further improving the economic and environmental efficiency of beef production. This is done by measuring the weaning efficiency of suckler cows. Building on the success of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme, the data collected will also be a valuable addition to Ireland's already impressive cattle breeding database.

The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot was announced in Budget 2019 as part of the €78m Brexit package for the agri-food industry. As well as clear environmental and climate benefits, the BEEP will provide farm gate investment at a time of market volatility and uncertainty relating to Brexit. I am very conscious that 2018 was a very difficult year for beef farmers, in terms of weather, fodder issues and market volatility. This is the sector most exposed to Brexit, given its reliance on the UK market. The BEEP is designed to provide an injection of investment at a critical time for farmers navigating the challenges ahead, while delivering in real terms on our climate objectives.

The €20 million funding available will allow for payment up to a maximum of €40 per calf, based on costs incurred and income foregone. If the scheme is oversubscribed a linear cut may be applied.

It is a pilot scheme for 2019 only, Exchequer funded and operated under State Aid de minimis provisions.

The pilot has been designed to be as straightforward as possible and to ensure that the majority of the payment can be retained by the farmer.

Application will be open to all beef suckler herdowners. The terms and conditions and information on the process and application procedure are available on my Department’s website:

https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/beep/

or from the Beef Schemes section of my Department.

Common Agricultural Policy Subsidies

Ceisteanna (32)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

32. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if indications have been given at recent European Council of Agriculture Ministers meetings and at meetings with the European agriculture Commissioner on the funding level for CAP post-2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5622/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The EU proposed CAP budgetary ceilings are a part of the wider proposals on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the European Union for the period 2021-2027. The proposals are ultimately a matter for agreement between Ministers for Finance and Heads of State. The European Commission has proposed, as part of the MFF, that funding for the Common Agricultural Policy should not exceed €365 billion for the period 2021-2027. This equates to a cut of around 5% compared to the current provision. Latest reports are indicating that negotiations on the next MFF will not be finalised until Autumn 2019.

I have been working closely with my European colleagues to build a consensus to reverse the cut to the CAP budget and to maintain support to CAP at the current EU 27 level. In May last year, I, along with my EU Ministerial colleagues from France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Finland signed a joint Memorandum seeking the retention of the CAP budget at current levels. The Memorandum was presented at the Agri-Fish Council in Luxembourg in June 2018 and up to 20 other EU Ministers have signalled their support to this proposal now. At the Agrifish Council on 16 July 2018 France and Germany presented a joint declaration on the CAP proposals including a joint rejection of the cuts proposed. This paper was supported by other Member states including Croatia, Romania, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Belgium and Ireland.

I had a further opportunity to discuss the CAP budget at the recent Agri-Fish Council which took place on the 28 January. I again emphasised the point that we need to ensure an adequate budget for Pillar I and Pillar II. Over the coming months detailed negotiations will continue at all levels across the EU as we work together to shape the final outcome. At the centre of all our considerations will be the need to ensure that CAP Post 2020, properly funded, will continue to support farm families and the rural economy.

I can assure the deputy that I will continue to work to develop a broad consensus on the value of a strong, fit for purpose agriculture sector, and work to reverse the cuts proposed in the draft MFF.

Clean Oceans Initiative

Ceisteanna (33)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

33. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the details of the clean oceans initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5715/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I launched the Clean Oceans Initiative in January at the fishing port of Union Hall in West Cork. This exciting project aims to tackle the threat of plastic pollution in our marine environment by encouraging Irish trawlers to collect marine litter while at sea. Approximately 80% of marine debris is made up of plastics which do not biodegrade, but rather break up into tiny particulates. This poses a risk to marine wildlife as well as our fish stocks so it is prudent that action is taken to remove as much plastics from the marine environment as possible.

The Clean Oceans Initiative, funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, will provide on-board storage facilities and on-shore infrastructure for environmentally friendly disposal of all plastic waste and fishing gear recovered at sea. My ambition is to have all Irish trawlers at every pier and port actively participating in Ireland’s first co-ordinated initiative to collect, reduce and reuse marine litter and clean up our marine environment by the end of 2019.

I have tasked Bord Iascaigh Mhara with assembling a collaborative multi-stakeholder team, to focus on solutions for marine litter prevention and removal. BIM will also reach out to the wider coastal community and I look forward to receiving proposals for further innovative solutions for the prevention and removal of marine litter. I have asked BIM to report quarterly on progress on this Initiative and I have been heartened to see how broadly it has been welcomed to date.

Agrifood Sector

Ceisteanna (34)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

34. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he remains satisfied that the agrifood sector is adequately protected against competition from third countries with lower production, processing and hygiene standards in view of the need to ensure the application of EU standards for all imports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5650/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Agri-food products placed on the Single Market must comply with the same EU standards, whether they are produced within the EU itself, or are imported from non-EU countries. The importation of Agri-food products into the European Union is governed by a comprehensive and robust legislative framework laid down at EU level, controlled by Member States in the first instance, and audited by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (formally the FVO). The legislation includes rules in relation to checks that must be carried out at the borders of the EU to ensure that products being imported into the EU meet EU standards. My Department plays a part in the enforcement of this legislation along with competent authorities in other Member States, in other Irish government departments and state agencies such as the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Health Service Executive.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (35)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

35. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans and the timetable to implement the recommendations of a Teagasc report (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5727/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Teagasc report “An Analysis of Abatement Potential of greenhouse Gas Emissions in Irish Agriculture 2021-2030”, published last summer, highlights the potential for GHG abatement to limit the emissions from the sector over the period 2021 to 2030 based on current scientific knowledge against the likely level of future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if no action is taken. Effectively this report identifies a toolbox of options to inform the type of abatement measures we need to focus on with a view to achieving the 2030 greenhouse gas emission targets.

My Department and its agencies are currently in the process of assessing the feasibility of the measures identified in this report and to what extent they could be mobilised at farm-level including importantly, how they can contribute to the national inventory on emissions. This assessment will be key to a number of parallel processes including:

- the development of a CAP strategic plan. Higher ambition on environmental and climate action are part of the new CAP, post 2020, and it is proposed that 40% of the overall CAP budget will contribute to climate action. This will require farmers to achieve a higher level of environmental ambition through both mandatory and incentive-based measures.

- the development of a new “All of Government Plan” to tackle climate disruption which is being led by my colleague, Minister Bruton, which is underway.

My Department and I will continue to work alongside Government colleagues to ensure that the sector continues to play its part in tackling the causes of climate change and commits to measures and actions to support our approach to carbon neutrality without compromising capacity for sustainable food production.

Food Industry Development

Ceisteanna (36)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

36. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the efforts he is making to seek new markets in the context of Brexit; the efforts being made by State agencies under his remit to provide support to agrifood business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5714/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports is an ongoing and central component of the strategic development of the agri-food sector, as evidenced by its placement right at the centre of Food Wise 2025, the industry’s strategy for development over the coming years. Indeed, this is all the more relevant after the UK’s decision to leave the EU, which presents significant new challenges for the agri-food sector in particular.

Looking beyond Europe, Food Wise 2025 outlines the huge potential for growth in agri-food exports to new and emerging markets, particularly in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Gulf region. This is where our efforts will be focused for the foreseeable future, particularly given the need to diversify our markets and to reduce our reliance on traditional destinations such as the UK.

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 agri-food 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 the first half of 2019 will serve to enhance and improve our existing levels of market access in these destinations.

At my request, Bord Bia recently completed a market prioritisation exercise that identified opportunities in new and more mature markets, and will provide valuable market intelligence both for industry operators and policy makers.

Since the UK referendum I have increased Bord Bia’s funding by a total of €19.5 million, including a further €5 million that has been allocated in Budget 2019. That funding has been put to very good use on initiatives such as its Brexit Barometer, which has been helping companies to assess and improve their preparedness for Brexit, and its Market Prioritisation reports, which are informing its own and my Department’s work in relation to market diversification. Bord Bia has also been very active in engaging with companies in relation to issues such as supply chain management, customs processes, customer relationships and market diversification.

In addition, Bord Bia, along with officials from my Department, has been participating in the recent series of public outreach events being co-ordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the banner ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’. This information campaign is designed to help businesses and companies understand some of the challenges posed by Brexit and the supports available to them.

I can assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to seek out and identify new markets, and I am ready to respond as appropriate to any opportunities that may arise.

Labour Court Recommendations

Ceisteanna (37)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

37. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has had discussions with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection regarding exemptions for stable staff to the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997; his views regarding the impact in the horse racing industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5673/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Following the Labour Court ruling regarding exemptions for stable staff to the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, I was made aware of the deep concern that existed in the horseracing industry arising from this ruling and its potential for significant impact on the sector, particularly for smaller operators.

As part of the legislation governing employment in this area falls within the remit of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I can confirm that I met with my colleague Minister Humphreys in relation to this issue in early 2018. I also raised the matter with Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Minister Doherty.

During these discussion, I outlined the concerns from the horseracing industry and sought a solution which would provide employers with some flexibility in the application of working time rules to staff working in the industry, subject to certain conditions and safeguards designed to ensure that workers are protected.

Following advice from the Attorney General, Minister Doherty signed a statutory instrument on 20 December 2018 which allows the limited derogations that are currently available to the agriculture sector under Working Time Directive and the Organisation of Working Time Act /Regulations to be also available to the horse racing sector.

Public Procurement Contracts

Ceisteanna (38)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

38. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the details of the tendering process for the recruitment of consultants for the development of the national CAP strategic plan and individual schemes his Department is designing; the budget and terms of reference of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5708/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Under the current draft CAP 2021-2027 proposals, each Member State is required to submit a CAP Strategic Plan by the 1st of January 2020. The process of developing the draft CAP Strategic Plan will be a complex one, involving a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis, a needs assessment, scheme design, an ex ante evaluation including a Strategic Environmental Assessment, and an Appropriate Assessment. A central element of this process will be on-going and substantive stakeholder and public consultation.

My Department is currently engaged in the tendering process for the appointment of an external provider to conduct an ex-ante evaluation, including a Strategic Environmental Assessment and, if required, an Appropriate Assessment on the draft CSP. The closing date for receipt of tenders was Tuesday 5 February 2019. My Department will now evaluate the tenders received. It is envisaged to have a contract awarded before the end of Quarter 1 of 2019.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (39)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

39. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the supports provided to Bord Bia to assist agrifood businesses to find new markets for their produce in the context of a potentially changed trading environment post-Brexit. [5719/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Bord Bia’s work is critical to the success of the growth of our food and drinks exports. Despite the challenges our industry has faced, Irish agri-food exports have shown great resilience and are estimated at €13.6 billion in total in 2018, including €12.1 billion in food and drink exports, which is 64% higher than comparative figures for 2010.

Bord Bia has played a vital role in that export success by enhancing and promoting our focus on quality, innovation and sustainability. The development of the Origin Green programme, providing proof of the sector’s sustainability credentials, has played an important part. Bord Bia works closely with my Department and is central to our work of growing and developing new and existing markets, based on consumer insights and market prioritisation. International markets outside the EU now account for almost 30% of our total export value. In 2018, I led trade missions to Turkey, US and Canada, to China, to Malaysia and Indonesia.

As an agency, Bord Bia has played a key role in our Brexit response to date, facilitating conversations at the highest levels with UK retail CEOs, and ensuring that our ongoing commitment to the UK market is fully understood. UK remains by far our most valuable market, for very valid reasons – it is our closest geographical market, with strongly integrated supply chains and a hugely valuable grocery market. We have no intention of stepping back from the UK market.

Bord Bia’s Brexit Barometer has been used to identify evolving client priorities and concerns and to further inform Bord Bia’s Brexit programmes and supports. As a result of the many findings from the two exercises it carried out in 2017 and 2018, Bord Bia has provided a series of Brexit support programmes focussed on Supply Chains, Customs Requirements regarding Trade, and, Currency Risk for the industry, alongside a customer engagement plan to communicate to key UK stakeholders the preparedness of Irish food and drinks suppliers.

Since the Brexit vote in 2016, I have allocated significant additional tranches of funding for Bord Bia, as a key part of the Government’s efforts to support the agrifood sector in responding to Brexit uncertainty.

In September 2017, I announced funding of €6.745 million for Bord Bia to undertake a programme of additional activities, based on Brexit Barometer analysis, to support the food and drink sectors in addressing the market challenges relating to Brexit. The funding was additional to the €1.6 million I provided to Bord Bia in Autumn 2016 for grants to assist food companies highly dependent on the UK market and an additional €2 million allocated to Bord Bia as part of their 2017 Grant for increased expenditure on programmes.

In Budget 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 sector 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.