Agriculture Industry

Ceisteanna (2096)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

2096. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps being taken to address the rapidly worsening labour and skills shortages for dairy, horticulture, pig and poultry farms. [34218/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am acutely aware of the shortage of labour that exists in some parts of the agri-food sector. It should be noted that the sector accounts for 7.9% of total employment, or approximately 174,000 jobs. As most of these jobs are based in rural areas, they are crucial to the rural economy.

Over the last year or so, labour supply issues have been most acute in meat processing, and on-farm in the horticulture and dairy sectors, although I am aware that some other parts of the industry are also beginning to face the same issue. While some potential exists to recruit labour from within the domestic and European labour markets right across the agri-food sector, it became apparent in recent times that this would be insufficient to meet the demand. Therefore, I and my officials have worked intensively with the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys and her Department in relation to employment permits for non-European Economic Area nationals.

The pilot scheme of permits introduced last year by Minister Humphreys for the horticulture, dairy and meat processing sectors has been crucial in helping employers in those sectors securing labour. To date, quotas of 1,500 permits for general operatives in meat processing, 500 for horticulture workers and 50 for dairy farm assistants have been allocated. I understand that there are still permits left in the allocation for horticulture which will serve as a critical aid to securing labour in that sector.

I am aware, however, that the allocation for dairy farm workers has been exhausted and I am in active engagement with Minister Humphreys with a view to extending this quota. In relation to the pig and poultry farm sectors, I and my officials have engaged with representatives and employers in relation to the preparation of a business case that is required before consideration can be given by Minister Humphreys to sanctioning permits for these sectors. This engagement is ongoing.

Alongside the dedicated pilot scheme for the agri-food sector, an overarching review of the broader employment permit system has been carried out by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Minister Humphreys published the report on this review last year and my Department, having actively participated in the review, is now participating in the inter-departmental group implementing the recommendations. I am confident that this exercise will lead to a permit regime that is more flexible and adaptable to the labour needs of the agri-food sector, particularly for seasonal employment, and expect to see positive developments in the period ahead.

I have always said that permits are just one piece of the jigsaw in addressing labour supply and that the sector must also intensify its efforts to source labour from both the domestic and EU markets. In this regard, my officials have been working closely with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to assist in these efforts and ensure that employers in need of labour are aware and make use of the many employment services which that Department offers.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (2097, 2098)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

2097. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans for grants to assist companies change products for more continental and world markets in terms of Brexit preparedness and mitigation. [34220/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

2098. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to assist companies put experienced sales persons on the ground to develop new markets in terms of Brexit preparedness and mitigation. [34221/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2097 and 2098 together.

Over a series of Budgets, I have put in place measures to assist companies prepare for and mitigate the impact of Brexit.

In Budget 2018, my Department contributed to a €300m Brexit Loan Scheme, at least 40% of which is available to food businesses. The Scheme was developed by the Department in cooperation with Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Finance and the SBCI to provide working capital support to enable eligible Irish businesses (SMEs and small mid-caps) to implement the necessary changes to address the challenges posed by Brexit. It opened for applications on 28 March 2018 and it will remain open until 31 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.

Budget 2018 also introduced a €50m dedicated Brexit package which included supports to Bord Bia and Teagasc. This funding is supporting Bord Bia in its investment in market insight (through its ‘ThinkingHouse’) and in market prioritisation initiatives which are aimed at identifying and developing potential diversification opportunities. Furthermore, tailored supports and analysis are also being provided to food companies through Bord Bia’s Brexit Barometer.

Regarding product diversification, my Department is supporting Teagasc in the development of a new National Food Innovation Hub in Fermoy.

Budget 2019 introduced a €78m Brexit package for farmers, fishermen, food SMEs and to cover additional costs related to Brexit. Of this €27 million was for capital funding for the food industry.

Lastly, the Future Growth Loan Scheme launched by DBEI/DAFM will bring up to €300 million of long-term strategic investment loans available to eligible Irish businesses, including farmers and the agri-food & seafood sectors. The fund is leveraged by exchequer funding of €62 million, of which 40% or some €25 million has been provided by my Department. Businesses have been able to apply for loan eligibility through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) since 17th April 2019.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (2099)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

2099. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to protect origin of food products from the island of Ireland in all post-Brexit scenarios. [34222/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The placement of food products on the EU market 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 EU Commission. My Department pays a key role in the enforcement of legislation in this area along with other Government departments and state agencies such as the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Health Service Executive.

Labelling of food, which incorporates mandatory country of origin information, is governed by EU food legislation on the provision of Food Information to Consumers (Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011). This currently applies to certain products such as the meat of pigs, sheep, goats and poultry, beef, fish, honey, olive oil, and fresh fruit and vegetables.

From 1 April 2020, it will be mandatory to indicate the country of origin of the primary ingredient (which makes up more than 50% of a food) if it is different from the country of origin of the product as a whole.

Ports Development

Ceisteanna (2100)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2100. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount allocated in each year and expended since June 2016 on upgrading infrastructure at Dublin and Rosslare ports to prepare for the possibility of the UK becoming a third country with the European Union and increased export certification as well as sanitary and phytosanitary controls required in tabular form. [34252/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department has been actively participating in a whole-of-Government approach to preparedness and contingency planning for Brexit. We have fed into the overall Government Contingency Action Plan and the updated Plan which was published earlier this month.

We have also 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 of controls on animals, plants and animal and plant products coming from, and going to, the UK post Brexit.

Throughout all this work, the focus of my Department has been on the need to discharge its legal responsibilities while ensuring the minimum disruption to trade.

OPW is engaged in the provision of infrastructure at Dublin and Rosslare ports on behalf of all Government Departments/Agencies. My Department has not been allocated funding in any of the years since 2016 for the upgrade of infrastructure at either Dublin or Rosslare ports.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (2101, 2102, 2103, 2104, 2105, 2106, 2107)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2101. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of new Department staff hired at Dublin Port to prepare for the possibility of the UK becoming a third country with the European Union and the increased export certification as well as sanitary and phytosanitary controls and checks required for live animals and food products; the number of new Department staff hired at the port in each year since 2016 and to date in 2019; the number of Department staff employed at the port by grade. [34254/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2102. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when Rosslare Harbour gained border inspection post status from the European Union, EU; the number of new Department staff hired at the port to prepare for the possibility of the UK becoming a third country with the EU and the increased export certification as well as sanitary and phytosanitary controls and checks required for live animals and food products. [34255/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2103. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of sanitary and phytosanitary, SPS, and fisheries control officials that will be operational on 31 October 2019 out of the planned recruitment of 116 staff for SPS and fisheries controls as agreed on 18 September 2018; the number of such officials that have been hired as a Brexit mitigation measure that are operational in view of the fact the Minister for Finance has confirmed that the Revenue Commissioners have appointed over 550 staff from open recruitment and interdepartmental competitions with the majority of these assigned to customs roles. [34256/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2104. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of full and part-time staff veterinary officers and inspectors respectively employed in his Department at the end of June 2019, by Civil Service grade and division; the number of veterinary staff that will be operational on 31 October 2019, in tabular form. [34257/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2105. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of portal inspectors, plant health inspectors and administrative support staff employed in his Department at the end of June 2019, by Civil Service grade and division; the number of such staff that will be operational on 31 October 2019, in tabular form. [34258/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2106. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the estimated number of private veterinary practitioners that may be needed for border inspection post duty as part of his contingency planning in the event of a no-deal Brexit; the number of such practitioners that have been hired to date; and the number targeted for 31 October 2019. [34259/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2107. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of staff recruited to date under the allocation in 2019 following the allocation in budget 2019 of €7 million for staff and information technology costs arising from additional import control and export certification requirements arising from Brexit; his plans for advertising for such positions; the timelines for recruitment; when the first staff hires took up these positions in 2019; and the number estimated to be hired for sanitary, phytosanitary and veterinary staff. [34260/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2101 to 2107, inclusive, together.

Given the large volume of information sought by the Deputy the information will be forwarded in the coming days.

Agriculture Schemes

Ceisteanna (2108)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2108. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the dairy sustainability Ireland initiative and the sustainability support and advisory programme; the way in which both are interacting; the number of advisers employed in the sustainability support and advisory programme to date; and the allocated contribution for each year of the programmes. [34262/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Agricultural Support & Advisory Programme (ASSAP) is an innovative Government/industry initiative running from 2018 to 2021. It is a well structured, collaborative initiative, involving a range of stakeholders, including the wider community, to facilitate improvements in water quality. The ASSAP involves a resource of 30 Agricultural Sustainability Advisors, 20 of whom are funded by Government and 10 by the Dairy Industry. These Advisors will promote on-farm best practice to farmers in 190 ‘Areas for Action’, identified by the EPA, where the status of the water is at risk of deteriorating. Farmers can avail of this service within the ‘Areas for Action’ on a voluntary basis.

All advisors have now received comprehensive training from the EPA and Teagasc to ensure a common approach. The process of engagement with both the wider communities and with farmers in these areas is now well underway. Community meetings are taking place in the ‘Areas-for-Action’ to update people on developments in the local areas.

Projected expenditure for the 20 Sustainability Advisers and 3 Overhead Personnel being financed by Government are as follows -

2019

2020

2021

Total Annual Cost €

1,686,207

1,741,284

1,868,844

Food Wise 2025 Strategy

Ceisteanna (2109)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2109. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the successor to Food Wise 2025. [34263/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Food Wise 2025 is a ten-year strategy agreed by a range of stakeholders, both public and private, and adopted by the Government as an overarching policy for the Irish agri-food sector. It underlines the agri-food sector’s unique and special position within the Irish economy and illustrates the potential for further development.

It is the latest in a series of strategies that are renewed every five years. These have been crucial in providing a coherent, joined-up way forward for all parts of the agri-food sector with broad stakeholder buy-in and regular reporting to a high level implementation committee.

Preparations for a new strategy to 2030 are underway. Its development will involve an analysis of a range of cross-cutting themes and the various sub-sectors of the agri-food industry, a formal public consultation and the establishment of a committee to develop the strategy.

I will very shortly be launching the public consultation element of the process.

Agriculture Schemes

Ceisteanna (2110, 2111)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2110. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of dairy farmers participating and not participating, respectively, in the sustainable dairy assurance scheme by county, in tabular form; his plans to update the scheme in line with the new climate action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34264/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2111. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of beef and sheep farmers participating and not participating, respectively, in the sustainable beef and lamb assurance schemes by county, in tabular form; and his plans under to update these assurance schemes in line with the new climate action plan. [34265/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2110 and 2111 together.

The data on the Quality Assurance schemes have been requested from Bord Bia and will be forwarded to the Deputy when received by my Department.

In relation to the Climate Action Plan, my Department will promote and encourage all actions that will assist in reaching our GHG targets by 2030. Forty percent of the future CAP (2021-2027) budget will be directed at climate and environmental measures. However, this will not be enough in itself and market based incentives and regulation will also be necessary.

Ireland has an opportunity to become a global leader in actions on climate change. If we succeed in our ambition in this area, we will create a progressive and sustainable agricultural sector into the future.

Dairy Sector

Ceisteanna (2112, 2113, 2114, 2115, 2116, 2117, 2118, 2119, 2120, 2121)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2112. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the volume and value of cheddar imports from the United Kingdom excluding Northern Ireland in 2019 to 30 June 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34266/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2113. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the volume and value of cheddar imports from Northern Ireland in 2019 to 30 June 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34267/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2114. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the volume and value of cheddar exports to Northern Ireland in 2019 to 30 June 2019. [34268/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2115. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the volume and value of cheddar exports to the United Kingdom excluding Northern Ireland in 2019 to 30 June 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34269/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2116. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the volume and value of liquid milk exports to Northern Ireland in 2019 to 30 June 2019. [34270/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2117. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the volume and value of liquid milk imports from Northern Ireland in 2019 to 30 June 2019. [34271/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2118. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the volume and value of dairy ingredient exports to Northern Ireland in 2019 to 30 June 2019. [34272/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2119. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the volume and value of dairy ingredient imports from Northern Ireland in 2019 to 30 June 2019. [34273/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2120. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the volume and value of dairy ingredient exports to the UK excluding Northern Ireland in 2019 to 30 June 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34274/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

2121. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the volume and value of dairy ingredient imports from the UK excluding Northern Ireland in 2019 to 30 June 2019, in tabular form. [34275/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2112 to 2121, inclusive, together.

In 2018, Ireland exported dairy products to approximately 140 countries totalling over €4.5 billion worth of produce, an increase of over 5% by volume compared to 2017 and another year of strong performance by the Irish dairy sector. I expect this increase in exports of Irish dairy products to continue into the future with increasing emphasis on third country markets.

With regard to 2019, the following table, based on Central Statistics Office data, outlines details in respect of values and tonnage to the United Kingdom, broken down for Great Britain and Northern Ireland for dairy exports for year to May 2019, the most recent figures released by the CSO.

Exports of dairy products to the UK

Great Britain

€000

Great Britain Tonnes

Northern Ireland €000

Northern Ireland Tonnes

Liquid milk

4,321

8,839

5,781

15,165

Cheddar cheese

118,519

40,374

218

38

Total dairy

368,881

122,909

38,319

25,467

Imports of dairy products from the UK

Great Britain

€000

Great Britain Tonnes

Northern Ireland €000

Northern Ireland Tonnes

Liquid milk

9,454

23,774

97,599

302,077

Cheddar cheese

18,883

5,454

151

40

Total dairy

145,123

88,063

110,628

310,572