Fisheries Protection

Ceisteanna (40)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

40. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the estimated impact of the decision to protect waters within the six-mile limit; the estimated impact this measure will have for smaller vessels and for sustainability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5716/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The matter the Deputy refers to is my announcement in December, following an extensive public consultation process, that vessels over 18m will be excluded from trawling in inshore waters inside the six nautical mile zone and the baselines from 1 January 2020. Trawling for sprat by vessels over 18m will be phased out by 31 December 2021.

Based on my assessment, I considered that there was a compelling case for excluding trawling by large vessels in coastal waters inside six nautical miles. Ireland’s fishing fleet comprises approximately 2,000 vessels but fewer than 200 of these are large trawlers. In environmental terms, large vessels trawling can have a significant impact both on fish stocks and on important coastal marine environments. Excluding trawling by large vessels in coastal waters inside six nautical miles will provide wider ecosystem benefits, including for nursery areas and juvenile fish stocks.

I am also very conscious of the exclusive reliance of small scale and island fishermen on inshore waters and the benefits this change will bring for these fishermen. According to BIM’s report, if smaller vessels take up all of the opportunities currently fished by vessels over 18m inside the 6nm zone it would mean an increase of 62% in the value of their landings. While it is unlikely that the volume of landings will simply be transferred from larger vessels to smaller vessels, the percentage gains for individual small vessels in our inshore fishing sector are hugely significant to the coastal communities they come from.

I firmly believe that this will, in the medium term, provide ecosystem and nursery stock benefits for all fishermen. These measures will provide for further sustainable development of the small scale inshore and sea angling sectors, which the Government has committed to in the Programme for a Partnership Government.

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

Ceisteanna (41)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

41. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the outcome of recent discussions at the European Council of Agriculture Ministers and with the European agriculture Commissioner on CAP reform and funding for CAP post-2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5621/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The new regulations for the CAP 2021-27 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.

Consideration of the CAP proposals is ongoing at EU level. Since the legislative proposals were launched in June 2018 a total of 25 Working Group meetings have taken place under the Austrian Presidency. The proposals are also discussed at the Special Committee of Agriculture meetings on a regular basis. In addition, CAP post 2020 is also a standing agenda item at every Agri-Fish Council meeting where I have discussed the CAP proposals extensively with my Agriculture Ministerial colleagues.

The Romanian Presidency outlined an equally intensive programme of Working Group meetings to discuss specific aspects of the CAP proposals for the duration of their Presidency.

I had a further opportunity to discuss the proposals at the recent Agri-Fish Council on Monday 28 January. Agriculture Ministers exchanged views on the new performance-based delivery model. Discussions focussed in particular on the annual deadline of reporting requirements, and a progressive approach to targets and possible deviations in the first two years of implementation of the new programme. My Ministerial colleagues and I also discussed the agricultural reserve and financial discipline. Also on the CAP proposals, we held an exchange of views on the wine related provisions set out in the common market organisation amended regulations, including the possibility of opening the market to new wine grape varieties. Commissioner Hogan informed delegations about the proposed green architecture. Also during the CAP discussions, a group of Member States, led by the Slovenian delegation, presented a declaration on having appropriate funding for rural development in the next MFF.

The overall level of the CAP budget post 2020 is a key priority for me. Member States are facing a 3.9% cut to Pillar 1 Direct Payments funding, and a 15% cut to Pillar 2 Rural Development funding. This is unacceptable in my view especially in light of the current developing situation surrounding Brexit. The retention of an adequate budget for the CAP post 2020 is a key priority for Ireland. The CAP budget is part of the Multiannual Financial Framework for the EU which is a matter for unanimous agreement by Heads of State and Government.

I have been advocating strongly amongst my agriculture counterparts to maintain a strong 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, and I will continue to seek to secure the best possible outcome for the Irish agrifood sector.

Animal Welfare

Ceisteanna (42)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

42. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to ensure that the 2015 ruling of the European Court of Justice which ensures the welfare of animals during live export will be met throughout transport to destinations beyond EU borders. [5672/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department implements stringent system of controls on the welfare of animals being exported, in particular through a comprehensive legislative framework relating to the transport of animals by sea (The Carriage of Livestock by Sea Regulations 2016 (S.I. 356 of 2016). Ships must be approved by my Department in advance of exporting cattle from Ireland. Cattle being exported are monitored during the prescribed isolation period by Department Veterinary Inspectors and in some cases by Official Veterinarians from the importing countries. This is in addition to work carried out by Private Veterinary Practitioners who carry out the testing required prior to export to enable certification. Furthermore, animals are inspected and certified by Official Veterinarians from the Department with regard to their health status and fitness for travel.

Both veterinary staff from my Department and private veterinary practitioners have accompanied vessels on a number of sailings and have expressed satisfaction in relation to the unloading arrangements observed in the third country.

My Department will continue to work closely with other EU Member States and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), with a view to improving animal welfare practices worldwide. For its part Ireland has committed to additional allocation of €75,000 to the OIE in the period 2017-20 to support its activities aimed at enhancing animal welfare worldwide.

Later this month my Department will host a delegation of Turkish officials organised by the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument of the European Commission. The visit will provide an opportunity of sharing experience and knowledge in the spheres of animal health and welfare.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (43)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

43. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to protect farmers in Border counties from a hard Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5464/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The agrifood sector is of critical importance to the Irish economy, and its regional spread means it underpins the socio-economic development of rural areas in particular. As such, Brexit has the potential to have a very significant impact on farmers and on the agrifood sector throughout Ireland, including farmers in the border counties.

I have been addressing the immediate Brexit challenges through a range of Budgetary measures aimed at improving competitiveness, and developing market and product diversification, in Budgets 2017, 2018 and 2019.

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.

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.

I wish to assure the Deputy that the Government remains very focused on supporting farmers and the agrifood industry through the challenges ahead, whether they are based in the border region or in any other part of the country.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (44)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

44. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he has taken to date to safeguard agriculture in the event of a deal or no-deal Brexit scenario; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5709/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I have been addressing the immediate 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, 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 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.

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.

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.

Trade Missions

Ceisteanna (45)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

45. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans for trade missions for 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5712/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agrifood exports is an ongoing and central component of the strategic development of the agrifood sector, as evidenced by its placement right at the centre of Food Wise 2025, the industry’s strategy for development over the coming decade. Food Wise 2025 outlines the huge potential for growth in agrifood 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 market development, 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 in 2018. These missions included participants from across the agrifood sector and featured extensive trade contacts as well as high-level political discussions.

The destinations for trade missions for 2019 are currently being finalised and I expect to be in a position to announce them shortly.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (46)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

46. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the work that has been carried out within his Department and at EU level with regard to the impact of Brexit on the breeding bloodstock and equine industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5677/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The current EU rules on the movement of equidae between EU Member States require that the animals being moved are inspected by an official veterinarian and accompanied by a veterinary health certificate issued under the EU TRACES system and a horse passport issued by an approved horse passport issuing body.

However, these rules also allow Member States which have implemented alternative but equivalent health control systems in their respective territories, to grant one another derogations from the standard movement rules. The derogation provided for under Community rules on the movement of equidae is applicable to movements between EU Member States only. It is not inclusive of movements between the EU and Third Countries.

Currently Ireland is part of a Tripartite Agreement (TPA), along with the UK and France which allows for the movement and trade of horses between the three countries without undergoing veterinary inspections and without health certificates. As the TPA is based on EU legislation on the movement of horses within the EU, the UK cannot be part of the Agreement once it becomes a Third Country.

The current focus of our 'no deal' contingency planning is on the arrangements that will be necessary for the Department to fulfil its legal obligations with respect to import controls on live animals and agri food products as efficiently as possible while also ensuring the minimum possible disruption to trading arrangements.

As part of this planning we are upgrading existing Border Inspection Posts (BIPs) and developing additional BIPs to cater for the increased volume of inspections necessary, including in respect of equines being imported from the UK, and making arrangements to facilitate the certification of horses to the UK as necessary.

Fishery Harbour Centres

Ceisteanna (47)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

47. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his priorities for investment under the fisheries harbours infrastructure programme for 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5718/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department owns, operates and maintains six designated State-owned Fishery Harbour Centres, located at Castletownbere, Dingle, Dunmore East, Howth, Killybegs and Ros An Mhíl under statute. In addition, my Department also has responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of North Harbour at Cape Clear, as well as the maintenance of a small number of specific piers, lights and beacons throughout Ireland, in accordance with the 1902 ex-congested Districts Board piers, lights and Beacons Act.

I am happy to advise the Deputy that between the years 2010 to 2018, as part of my Department’s Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme, in excess of €96m has been invested in maintenance, development and upgrading works at the six fishery harbour centres. Over the same period, almost €28m has also been made available to assist coastal Local Authorities in the maintenance, repair and development of piers, harbours and slipways in their ownership

On the 27th of January 2019 I announced a €35.7m capital investment package in our six Fishery Harbour Centres and other fisheries related marine infrastructure. This represents an increase of €9.4m on the final expenditure on this programme in 2018.

The continuation of the Dinish quay extension, Castletownbere FHC (€17.5m in 2019), the commencement of the Smooth Point extension phase 2, Killybegs FHC (€4m in 2019), and the Middle Pier berthing face project, Howth FHC (€4.5m in 2019) are the flagship projects for 2019. All three harbours are seeing increasing levels of activity in various sectors including increasing levels of fishing, commercial cargo, leisure and tourism and cruise liner (Killybegs only) activity and the need for additional berthage has been recognised. These projects will deliver 220 metres of much needed additional berthing space in Castletownbere, with 120 metres additional berthing space also being provided in both Howth and Killybegs respectively.

Other projects of note are the breakwater extension at Ros An Mhíl FHC, the remedial & improvement works to the West Wharf (phase 4) at Dunmore East FHC and the water metering project in Dingle FHC. I have allocated €2.48m this year for safety, maintenance and disability access works at the six Fishery Harbour Centres and at North Harbour, Cape Clear.

I am pleased to say that I have also allocated €2m for the purposes of a 2019 Local Authority Harbour Development and Marine Leisure programme to assist coastal Local Authorities in the repair and development of piers, harbours and slipways under their ownership. My Department has recently sought expressions of interest from Local Authorities for potential projects in 2019.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (48)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

48. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the contingency steps being taken to mitigate the impact a no-deal Brexit on the agriculture sector. [5729/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The agri-food sector is of critical importance to the Irish economy, and its regional spread means it underpins the socio-economic development of rural areas in particular. As such, Brexit has the potential to have a very significant impact on farmers and on the agri-food sector throughout Ireland, and the extent of this potential impact has been highlighted by studies carried out by agencies such as Teagasc, the Department of Finance, the Economic and Social Research Institute, Inter Trade Ireland and Copenhagen Economics.

The most immediate challenge for industry has been to deal with the impact caused by the significant drop in the value of sterling against the euro. A considerable amount of work has also been put into intensifying our market diversification efforts in order to reduce our exposure to the UK market.

I have been addressing these 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, 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 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 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 agri-food and fisheries 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 on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors. We discussed the unique exposure of these sectors 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.

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 agri-food products coming from the UK.

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.

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.

On infrastructure, we have been engaging very closely with the Office of Public Works, the Department of Transport, the Department of Health and the Revenue Commissioners in relation to the physical facilities that will be required to carry out import controls at the three locations. This work had been proceeding in any event in the context of dealing with the central case scenario, and has been adapted in order to meet the requirements in the event of a disorderly Brexit.

On staffing, the Department is working very effectively with Customs and others to provide the resources needed to apply the necessary controls, and I am confident that the state will be in a position to apply controls at the appropriate time.

On information technology, my Department has established a project to coordinate the identification and delivery of ICT Infrastructure and systems to support the additional requirements of staff engaged in control processes in Dublin Port, Rosslare and Dublin Airport. The delivery timelines in the event of a disorderly Brexit are extremely challenging, but officials are working with the greatest urgency to ensure that the required ICT services are in place by 29 March 2019.

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.

Felling Licences

Ceisteanna (49)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

49. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the removal of trees at a location (details supplied); if he will report on the investigation into the removal of those trees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5684/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Forestry in Ireland operates within a legal and regulatory framework. This framework exists to protect our forests and also to ensure that forestry operations and activities are carried out in compliance with the principles of sustainable forest management. In this context, my Department is responsible for the administration, evaluation and processing of felling licence applications as required by the Forestry Acts 1946 and 2014. As such, applications for tree felling licences are carefully assessed by my officials to ensure that the proposed tree felling or thinning is suitable for both the management of the trees on site and the care and protection of the land and surrounding environment.

As regards the case in question, a General Felling Licence was issued under the Forestry Act 1946 on the 7th April 2017 to thin a forest area. This licence conferred on the licensee the right to uproot or cut down of trees in the specified area of land in the ordinary course of thinning, in accordance with the general practice of good forestry.

The felling licence on the site was suspended following receipt of reports from third parties. As there is an on-going review into the circumstances surrounding the felling at the location in question, I am unable to comment further on this individual case. I expect this review to be finalised shortly and my Department will then take appropriate action based on the outcome of that report.

Sugar Industry

Ceisteanna (50)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

50. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps being taken and actions carried out to re-establish a sugar beet industry; and the progress in this regard. [5579/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As the Deputy will be aware, in 2006 the EU introduced a restructuring mechanism intended to reduce overall production of sugar, acknowledging the then global over supply and resultant low prices being achieved.

Greencore, as the holder of the entire Irish sugar quota at the time, availed itself of this voluntary initiative, ceasing production and dismantling its processing facilitates.

As part of the relinquishing of its sugar quota, Ireland secured €353 million as part of the reform package, with some €220 million being distributed to beet growers and a further €6 million to machinery contractors in the sector.

In the intervening years, global production has continued to exceed demand and prices unfortunately remain at historically low levels.

As part of the reform of the CAP, agreement was secured on the abolition of sugar quotas from 30th September 2017. From that date, investors in the European Union, including Ireland are free to invest in sugar producing capacity if they wish.

Since 2006, a number of groups expressed an interest in the redevelopment of the sugar sector, two of whom prepared desktop feasibility studies between 2010 and 2011. In their findings, both proposals sought to develop a new sugar and bio ethanol production facility with capital costs, estimated at the time, of between €250 and €400 million.

More recently, I am aware that in 2018 a group has sought to engage with interested growers in an equity partnership proposal to develop a sugar processing facility in the South-east.

The current "Programme for a Partnership Government" states that "State Bodies will be asked to examine any substantial business plans relating to rebuilding the industry with a view to considering appropriate State supports".

Acknowledging this, any such business plans would need to be supported by a sufficiently robust business case, having regard to the price of sugar, to attract the substantial funding required from investors for such a new start-up industry.

Brexit Data

Ceisteanna (51)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

51. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the estimated impact a no-deal Brexit will have on the dairy and beef industry here; and the contingencies being put in place in this regard. [5728/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The UK is Ireland’s largest export destination for agri food products, with exports valued at approximately €5.2 billion in 2017. Beef exports from Ireland in 2017 were valued at €2,405m, of which 48 percent (€1,162m) were sent to the UK. Dairy exports from Ireland in 2017 were valued at €4,646m, of which 21 percent (€997m) were sent to the UK. However, certain dairy exports (cheddar & other cheeses for example) rely almost entirely on the UK market.

Under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariffs and duty rates for certain beef products are equivalent to a 70% tariff rate and for certain dairy products up to the equivalent of a 50% tariff rate

Retention of the UK market for the dairy and beef industry is a key component of the Government's response to Brexit. In addition, I have introduced a range of measures to help these sectors to deal with the impacts of Brexit -

- In Budget 2017, a farm-gate business costs reduction measure in order to enhance competitiveness, including a €150m low-cost loan scheme;

- In Budget 2018, a €50m, dedicated Brexit package which included a contribution to a €300m (joint DAFM/DBEI) “Brexit Loan Scheme”, at least 40% of which is available to food businesses.

- In Budget 2019, a €78m Brexit package for farmers, fishermen, food SMEs and to cover additional costs related to Brexit.

It is also important to point out that the additional funding that I have provided to Bord Bia since the UK referendum - a total of €19.5 million - is being used, among other things, to provide direct support and advice to individual companies in relation to market diversification and to compile its market prioritisation reports, which are informing its own and my Department's work in this area.

In addition, I have 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.

More generally, the pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports, including dairy and beef 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.

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 agri-food 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 agri-food 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.

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

Ceisteanna (52)

Pat Deering

Ceist:

52. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position with regard to discussions on the next CAP reform and the protection of the CAP budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5721/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The new regulations for the CAP 2021-27 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. These proposals are complex and we are now in the middle of intensive and challenging negotiations for the next CAP 2021-27.

Consideration of the CAP proposals is ongoing at EU level. Since the legislative proposals were launched in June 2018 a total of 25 Working Group meetings have taken place under the Austrian Presidency. The proposals are also discussed at the Special Committee of Agriculture meetings on a regular basis. In addition, CAP post 2020 is also a standing agenda item at every Agri-Fish Council meeting where I have discussed the CAP proposals extensively with my Agriculture Ministerial colleagues.

The Romanian Presidency has outlined an equally intensive programme of Working Group meetings to discuss specific aspects of the CAP proposals for the duration of their Presidency. I had a further opportunity to discuss the proposals at the recent Agri-Fish Council which took place on Monday 28 January.

The EU proposed CAP budgetary ceilings form part of the wider proposals on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2021-2027. These proposals are ultimately a matter for agreement between Ministers for Finance and Heads of State.

The MFF post 2020 proposals, outline a funding envelope of €365 billion for the Common Agricultural Policy. This represents an approximate cut of 5%, when compared to the current period. This is unacceptable for Ireland.

The MFF proposals also provide for spending in areas such as research, migration and defence, which are priorities for some Member States. The loss of UK contributions to the EU budget add a further complication to these already challenging negotiations.

Throughout these negotiations, achieving Ireland’s priorities will be a key issue for the Government. Ireland has stated clearly that it is important that traditional policies with demonstrated added value continue to be properly supported. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is such a policy and a strong budget for the CAP post 2020 remains a key priority for Ireland.

From an agriculture perspective, I have been working closely with EU colleagues to build a consensus around the need to protect the CAP budget in the next MFF. Given that MFF matters are decided by unanimity, it is essential to build alliances around critical goals.

With this in mind, I have had a series of bilateral meetings with EU counterparts, to build support for a strong CAP budget post 2020. Furthermore, In May 2018, I agreed a Memorandum, with five European colleagues, seeking to maintain CAP funding for the 2021 - 27 period at current EU 27 levels. I, along with my Ministerial colleagues from France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Finland, have signed the Memorandum. Support has grown for this position and up to 20 Member States have now expressed their support for this proposal.

Over the coming months there will be detailed negotiations at all levels across the EU as member states work together to shape the final outcome of both the CAP and the MFF proposals. I can assure the deputy that the need to ensure that the CAP is properly funded, and continues to support farm families and the rural economy, will remain at the very centre of our considerations.

I will continue to work to develop a broad consensus on the need for a strong and fit-for-purpose agriculture sector at the heart of the European Union.

Horse Racing Ireland

Ceisteanna (53)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

53. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he had discussions with an organisation (details supplied) prior to its decision in 2016 to sell broadcast rights to a company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52111/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) is a commercial State Body responsible for the overall administration, promotion and development of the horse racing industry.

The question the Deputy has raised is solely an operational matter for HRI ,and I had no involvement in the matter.

HRI have informed me that new media rights arrangements represent a positive move for Irish racing and provide guarantees regarding income for racecourses up to 2023 during a time of great uncertainty, not least in the context of Brexit. The broadcasting of Irish racing by the new service provider commenced on 1 January 2019.

The arrangements were approved by all of the rights holders, which include 26 racecourses and Horse Racing Ireland. The rights were put out to a formal tender process, and the previous provider of direct to home television rights "At The Races" was part of a consortium which bid unsuccessfully for the rights. The successful bidder was a company called Sports Information Services (SIS) with whom Irish racing has had a positive and fruitful business relationship since 1987.

The tender was evaluated comprehensively and the various options were given detailed consideration before the decision was made to proceed with the proposal submitted by Sports Information Services.

On the question of the price of the service, HRI have informed my department that there is a misconception that the previous coverage of Irish racing was free. In fact, access to "At The Races" only came as part of a subscription to SKY television, so it is important to compare like for like.

The price of the new channel will be subject to a number of discounts and special offers which should ensure that it will be available at €12 per month.

At this price, HRI believe that this represents fair value to be able to access live coverage of every horse race run in Ireland in 2019.

Agrifood Sector

Ceisteanna (54)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

54. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which the agrifood sector continues to seek out new markets for food and food products both within the EU and elsewhere having particular regard to the needs arising from Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5649/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

In 2018 my Department continued to open new markets and deepen trade within existing markets for Irish agri-food exporters, the highlight of which was probably the decision of the Chinese authorities to open their market to Irish beef imports by listing a number of approved Irish beef establishments. Other notable achievements were agreements with Qatar and Kuwait which allowed for the importation of Irish beef, sheepmeat and poultry to their markets.

Against the backdrop of EU-agreed trade deals such as those completed with Canada, Japan and Mexico, my Department also continues to prioritise efforts to gain access to new third country markets and, equally importantly, to deepen existing markets for Irish dairy products.

We have also had success with exports to emerging markets. The value of exports to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Central/South America stood at almost €2.8 billion in 2017. The value of trade to these markets increased by 159% since 2009. These markets now account for over 20% of total agri-food exports.

Growth to emerging markets has been led by Asia, with exports of €1.6 billion in 2017, of which just under €1 billion went to China. Exports to other Asian markets grew by 85% since 2012 to €659 million in 2017. Trade to Africa has also grown to €606 million, while exports to the Middle East have also grown significantly, to reach €370 million.

The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish agri-food exports is, of course, 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 decade. 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.

Indeed, I have been very active in leading a number of successful Trade Missions to a range of destinations. In the last two years alone, I have led Missions to the Gulf Region, the US, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Looking for example at my most recent Trade Mission to Indonesia and Malaysia last October, I opened Bord Bia dairy conferences in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, which were focused on raising awareness of Ireland as a location for sustainable dairy production, as well as enhancing the Irish Industry’s understanding of the Indonesian and Malaysian market. They were followed by business meetings between Irish dairy companies and potential partners. The conferences hosted 140 Indonesian and Malaysian dairy buyers, importers and foodservice operators.

These were excellent opportunities to bring targeted retail buyers, suppliers and consumers together. Having our own Irish dairy companies there working together to promote Irish dairy in general, as well as their own particular brands, was an excellent chance to showcase the best of Irish dairy, based on our excellent food safety and controls systems, to a wider audience.

My Department will continue to seek out and identify new markets, and I am ready to respond as appropriate to other opportunities that may arise.

Renewable Energy Generation

Ceisteanna (55)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

55. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of plans to create an indigenous supply of biomass to supply material for power generation. [5578/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

In line with Government policy my Department is committed to increasing the supply of biomass from Ireland’s forests in support of our renewable energy targets. In 2017 the roundwood harvest (including firewood) was 3.54 million cubic metres, the highest level since records began, 42% of which was used for energy purposes. Timber production is set to double to 8 million cubic metres in the years up to 2035 and the majority of this will come from private forests. It is very important that this material is mobilised in order the meet the growing demand for biomass.

In this respect, the successful introduction of Knowledge Transfer Groups in 2018 , which give private owners the knowledge to bring their product to market is a significant initiative. This scheme will re-open shortly to new members.

Ongoing support for the production of biomass will continue to be provided under the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 which funds private afforestation and includes a specific “forestry for fibre ” scheme. My Department provides grant aid for the construction of forest roads which helps in the mobilisation of biomass and also funds a woodland improvement scheme for thinning of broadleaved woodlands, a key source of domestic heating fuel.

We also support the woodenergy.ie portal which provides advice on supply chain costings and technologies for forest-based biomass. Another recent development is an on-line All Roundwood Production Forecast tool. This enables area-based forecasts of roundwood availability and may be accessed via my Department’s website.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (56)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

56. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on to the report commissioned by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament in 2017 (details supplied); if he has empirical evidence to counter the findings of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5675/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am aware of this report and my officials have reviewed the findings and the underlying assumptions and methodology.

Different reports use different boundaries for life cycle analyses and hence differing results; life cycle analyses is a complex area of measurement and are useful in determining carbon footprints of animal systems but should not be considered static Rather, this form of analysis is an instrument to help assist with further improvements in the efficiency of agriculture production systems.

The finding that Ireland emits more greenhouse gas emissions per euro of agricultural output than any other EU member state is based on an accepted OECD indicator at international level to monitor green growth. However, it is important to note that this is not a measure of a typical carbon footprint per unit of agricultural output (per kg meat or milk) nor is it an indicator of climate inefficiency.

Further, the assessment in the referred report excludes Land use change (LULUCF) emissions and removals (CO2 ) from cropland and grassland also associated with agricultural activities, only including methane and nitrous oxide. This is in contrast to typical life cycle analysis that includes all emissions including those in the LULUCF category under the Inventory framework.

The European Parliament Report shows that Ireland has gained productivity efficiency with respect to greenhouse gases (GHGs). The FAO has also recognised the efficiency of our temperate grassland based production systems. Evidence of this is further reflected in the EU Joint Research Centre Report (2010) which illustrated that while intensive dairy systems create less methane and nitrous oxide emissions than extensive ones, this is countered by higher emissions from land use and land use change. Lowest emissions are created by extensive grassland systems, such as those in Ireland.

Overall, I believe Ireland is in a good position with regard to utilising the value of life cycle assessments. Under Origin Green programme, over 200,000 carbon audits have been completed on Irish dairy and beef farms since its introduction. Additionally, through the use of the Carbon Navigator, farmers are provided with advice and feedback on practices that effectively reduce the carbon-footprint of farm produce, and improve the economic performance at farm level.

Consultancy Contracts Data

Ceisteanna (57)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

57. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of different information technology consultants providing services to his Department; the way in which they are sourced; the cost in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5710/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department’s schemes and services are supported by a wide range of complex interconnected IT systems, the maintenance and development of which is supported by external resources. It is understood that the Deputy’s question relates to this support.

Three companies provided such support in 2018 and are continuing to do so today. The three companies were contracted through scheduled open tendering processes. The contracts awarded for a period of 3 years with the possibility of extension for a further year.

The amount paid including VAT in respect of contracts for external support in relation to the support provided in Q4, 2018 relating to systems supporting:

- the Basic Payment Scheme, Greening, Entitlements, National Reserve, Protein Aid Scheme, Young Farmers Scheme and maintenance / redevelopment of the Geospatial Information / Land Parcel Identification System

and the

- Generic Claims Processing System supporting the GLAS schemes, TAMS II, Organic Farmers Schemes, the various KT schemes and GLAS Training schemes

- and the processing of forestry grants and premium applications was €3,075,324.

Costs are associated with the contracts in place and are not associated with individual schemes.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (58)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

58. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has formally made a request to the European Commission under EU regulations further to an announcement (details supplied); if so, when the application was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5724/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The agri-food sector is of critical importance to the Irish economy, and its regional spread means it underpins the socio-economic development of rural areas in particular. As such, Brexit has the potential to have a very significant impact on farmers and on the agri-food sector throughout Ireland.

At this stage, Ireland has not formally notified the Commission that it is seeking emergency aid for the farming sector either through EU Regulation No. 702/2014 – the Agriculture Block Exemption Regulation - or under Article 219 of (EU) Regulation No 1308/2013. However, there are on-going discussions with the Commission regarding the difficulties facing Ireland.

I and my officials have 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 agri-food and fisheries 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 on the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors. We discussed the unique exposure of these sectors 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.