Apprenticeship Data

Ceisteanna (271, 272, 273)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

271. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farm apprenticeships which were made available in 2018. [12645/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

272. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farm apprenticeships that were taken up in 2018. [12646/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

273. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to increase the number of farm apprenticeships. [12647/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 271, 272 and 273 together.

The Farm Apprenticeship Board (FAB) was established in the 1960s to administer the Farm Apprenticeship Scheme. It filled a very well recognised role in farm management training. Following on from recommendations of the report of the Taskforce on Agricultural Education and Training (2000), the Farm Apprenticeship Scheme was incorporated into Teagasc education structures. The Scheme was discontinued in the early 2000’s following a decline in overall enrolments in agricultural education. As such, there are currently no recognised apprenticeships in place in agriculture other than a long-established craft apprenticeship in agricultural mechanics

The development of ‘new’ apprenticeship programmes and awards is governed by the requirements set out by the Apprenticeship Council in conjunction with SOLAS, the Higher Education Authority and Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).

Key requirements for new national apprenticeships are that they:

- are industry led;

- are of at least two years’ duration;

- contain a minimum of 50% on-the-job training;

- prepare apprentices to work autonomously and competently in a specific occupation;

- involve a Contract of Apprenticeship;

- provide a salary for the duration of the apprenticeship (on-the-job and off-the-job).

In response to calls for new apprenticeship proposals in the agricultural sector, Teagasc on behalf of industry stakeholders, submitted five apprenticeship proposals to the Apprenticeship Council in the following areas.

- Farm Technician (Level 6)

- Farm Manager (Level 7)

- Assistant Stud Farm Manager (Level 7)

- Applied Horticulturalist (Level 6)

- Sports Turf Technician (Level 6)

The development of each individual apprenticeship is being overseen by an industry-based consortium group. The Apprenticeship Council has approved the occupational profiles developed for each of the apprenticeships. The next step in the process is to have the proposed education programmes individually validated by QQI, which is a detailed process in its own right. The validation process is likely to extend into 2020.

Apprenticeships are just one piece of the jigsaw in addressing education and training requirements in the agricultural sector. In 2018, more than 7,000 learners participated in Teagasc school leaver, adult vocational education and training programmes and higher education programmes delivered with the Universities and Institutes’ of Technology. Teagasc also provide short courses and continuous professional development courses for famers and agri-food industry personnel. Typically, 2,000 - 3,000 participate annually, but this may be substantially higher in a given year.

Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme Data

Ceisteanna (274)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

274. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount spent on administration costs in respect of the areas of natural constraint scheme and its appeals process. [12648/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) scheme is a key financial support for Irish farmers, with a total budget of €250 million in 2019. In total, over 95,000 farmers receive a payment under the Scheme each year. In estimating the administrative cost related to the administration of the scheme and the current appeals process, a total staff cost has been calculated taking into account staff salaries, employers PRSI contributions, pension contributions and standard accommodation overheads. This is in line with the procedures set out in the Public Spending Code for such costings.

The total administrative costs on this basis is €1.656m. However, it should be noted that this is an estimation and many of the staff included in this costing also have portions of their time allocated to other areas of non-ANC work and it is therefore not possible to isolate the cost relating exclusively to ANC work.

In addition, the three members of the Independent Appeals Committee for the 2019 ANC Scheme are paid a per diem rate for their time in examining appeals.

Organic Farming Scheme Appeals

Ceisteanna (275)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

275. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason an appeal decision made by the agriculture appeals officer in respect of a farmer (details supplied) in County Galway in regard to recoupment of an organic payment is being reviewed by his Department; when a decision will issue in respect of this review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12655/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Agriculture Appeals Office operates independently of my Department. I have been advised that the records of the Agriculture Appeals Office indicate that an appeal was received on 23 May 2018 from the person named. Following a full assessment of the case, a decision letter was issued by an Appeals Officer to the appellant on 14 September 2018.

The Agriculture Appeals Act provides that an Appeals Officer's decision may be revised if it appears to the Director that the decision was erroneous by reason of some mistake having been made in relation to the law or the facts. My Department requested a review of the Appeals Officer's decision. Such requests are generally dealt with in order of receipt. A number of requests for reviews were received prior to the request concerned.

I am advised that every effort is being made to finalise the review of the case as soon as possible

Food Exports to China

Ceisteanna (276)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

276. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason it is not possible to export rapeseed or rapeseed oil produced here to China; the discussions he has had with the Chinese authorities with regard to the export of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12656/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland enjoys an excellent trading relationship with China and it has become our fourth largest trading partner in the agrifood sector.

In addition, my Department also engages with Chinese officials at multiple levels. Political visits in both directions at the very highest level, technical engagement between officials providing assurance on food safety standards, and a programme of internships in my Department for Chinese veterinary officials have all played an important part in building trust and developing key relationships.

This ongoing interaction and deepening co-operation has been reflected in the growth of Irish food and drink exports to China, with approximately €800 million worth exported in 2018.

Annual rapeseed cultivation in Ireland has averaged approximately 10,000 hectares over the last four years and represents only approximately 2.3% of the total crop production in the State.

I am not aware of any contact with my Department in relation to growers seeking market access to China.

Trade Missions

Ceisteanna (277)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

277. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans for a food-related trade mission to Korea and Japan later in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12690/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

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. As part of my 2019 Trade Mission schedule, I plan to lead a Government agri-food trade mission to Japan and South Korea in June.

Given that Free Trade Agreements between the EU and Japan and South Korea are now in place, it is an opportune time to build on the trade mission that I led to those countries in November 2017 and to again highlight Ireland as a source of high quality and safe agri-food, including dairy products, beef, sheepmeat, pigmeat, poultry, drinks, seafood, food ingredients and beverages.

As part of its market prioritisation exercise, Bord Bia has identified both countries among those that present trade opportunities for Ireland. Indeed, Bord Bia will be opening an office in Tokyo and has also received EU funding to promote beef and pigmeat to South Korea.

Japan is the world’s third largest economy and one of the largest meat importers globally. It is already Ireland’s third most import trade destination in Asia, with €114m worth of agri-food produce exported there in 2018. This was a large increase on the €56m worth of product exported in 2016. The main driver behind this increase is pigmeat (€41m in exports in 2018, compared to €14m in 2016). In fact, Japan is the fifth most important destination for Irish pig meat globally. Other notable areas are dairy produce (€40m in exports in 2018 compared with €15m in 2016) and fish (€14.3m).

I also see great opportunities in South Korea, particularly given that it is already an important destination for pigmeat & seafood exports, with nearly €14m in each category in 2018. Of course I will use the visit to meet with the Korean authorities as part of our determined effort to secure market access for Irish beef.

I have no doubt that this trade mission will be very valuable in both promoting Irish food and drink exports and in further developing relationships at political and official level. My experience has been that such contacts are central to Ireland’s efforts to gain new market access, and to developing existing levels of access where these have been secured.

Live Exports

Ceisteanna (278)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

278. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on whether permission will be granted by the Turkish authorities to commence live cattle imports from Ireland in the second half of 2019 following his recent meeting with his Turkish counterpart and the suspension of the issuance of new import licences in 2018. [12695/19]

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. I continue to prioritise efforts to gain access to new third country markets and, equally importantly, to deepen existing markets for live exports.

Since 2016, more than 60,000 Irish cattle have been exported to Turkey. The stringent system of animal health and welfare controls operated by my Department on the sea journey to Turkey ensures that Irish cattle arrive in excellent condition, a point acknowledged by the Turkish authorities.

I visited Turkey last week to meet with my Turkish counterpart, Dr Bekir Pakdemirli, Minister for Agriculture and Forestry. We discussed existing and future opportunities for technical cooperation and trade in agri-food products between Ireland and Turkey. I impressed upon Minister Pakdemirli the importance of the Turkish market for Irish livestock and our desire to re-establish trade as soon as possible.

I now have a clearer understanding for the reasons behind the Turkish Government’s decision to suspend the issuing of new import licenses in late 2018. There are obvious concerns in Turkey regarding over supply in the beef market, a matter which Minister Pakdemirli is determined to address. I am pleased that the Minister indicated his intention to consider the re-opening of the market in the second half of 2019. I assured him that there is significant interest from industry in resuming that trade.

We agreed that our officials would continue to explore opportunities for future cooperation and a visit by a Turkish technical team, including officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and ESK (the Turkish Meat and Milk Board) is planned for this summer.

Fishing Industry

Ceisteanna (279)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

279. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the type of regulations and legislative changes needed to provide for changes that will become operable in January 2020 following an announcement (details supplied). [12696/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As the Deputy is aware, I recently carried out a review of trawling activity in inshore waters inside the six nautical mile zone. Following an extensive public consultation process, I announced in December 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. 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 benefit, including for nursery areas and juvenile fish stocks. Small scale and island fishermen strongly rely on inshore waters and I am very conscious of the benefits this change will bring for these fishermen.

As Minister, I have responsibility for policy in relation to sea-fishing boat licensing.

On March 5th last, I issued Ministerial Policy Directive 1 of 2019 to the Registrar General of Fishing Boats under Section 3 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003, as amended by Section 99 of the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006, to give effect to these measures. This Policy Directive is intended to give effect to the measures I recently announced in relation to trawling activity (that is operating trawl or seine nets) inside the six nautical mile zone and inside the baselines. This Policy Directive is available to view on my Department's website and is due to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas shortly.

Beef Industry

Ceisteanna (280)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

280. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of commitments made by his predecessor when the beef forum was set up to introduce a wholesale price index which would be developed and published by Bord Bia and his Department. [12697/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) publishes a monthly Wholesale Price Index including an industrial producer price index which details monthly percentage changes over an array of products including food products, which are further differentiated into meat and meat products.

Following discussions about price transparency at the initial meeting of the Beef Roundtable, a commitment was given to develop a 'Beef Pricewatch' online tool to improve price transparency, the 'Beef Pricewatch' app was subsequently launched in October 2014. This app makes the following information available to farmers free of charge and in a very accessible manner: the average price at national and individual factory level for Steers, Heifers, Cows, and Young and Old Bulls.

It presents beef producers with a comparison for a representative group of animals in each category, such as the average R3 price for Steers and Heifers, and the average U3 price for Young Bulls. Behind these representative prices, the user is one click away from detailed information, at factory level, for prices across the entire 15 x 15 beef carcass classification grid. The App is updated on a weekly basis.

In addition, discussions at EU level led to the development of the EU Market Observatory in 2016, which provides more transparency by disseminating Member State-level market data and short-term analysis in a timely manner.

There have been on-going discussions at the Beef Roundtable in relation to market developments and forecasts including updates on the work Bord Bia has done with key stakeholders on the main markets and channels served by Irish product, with a view to developing a clear understanding of the market place.