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Thursday, 14 Jul 2022

Written Answers Nos. 874-893

Health Services

Question No. 875 answered with Question No. 873.

Ceisteanna (874)

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

874. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health the number of people awaiting a speech and language appointment through primary care in Cork; the number who have been waiting less than 3, 3 to 6, 6 to 12 and more than 12 months; broken down in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39563/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Question No. 875 answered with Question No. 873.

Health Services

Ceisteanna (876)

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

876. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health the number of persons waiting for an occupational therapy appointment through primary care in Cork the number who have been waiting less than 3, 3 to 6, 6 to 12 and more than 12 months broken down in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39565/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Agriculture Schemes

Ceisteanna (877)

Danny Healy-Rae

Ceist:

877. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will expand the availability of social farming in rural areas. [36901/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am a strong proponent of the Social Farming movement. It is has multi-faceted benefits for the farmers as well as those who attend the farms. It is a truly inspirational concept. I met with Social Farmers from Leitrim, Donegal and Kerry since I was appointed Minister. 

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine provided funding last year totalling almost €777,000 under the Rural Innovation & Development Fund towards the development of the national Social Farming Network and for the development of a number of social farming model projects. 

I am examining all options regarding funding models and streams for this movement.

Food Industry

Ceisteanna (878)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

878. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he continues to ensure that food production is not detrimentally affected by carbon reduction measures given the potential for worldwide food shortages; if he will ensure the maximisation of efforts to reduce emissions in line with targets with minimum impact on food production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28385/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Deputy may be aware that the issue of maintaining food production has been the subject of much discussion over recent months, particularly in the context of the Climate Action Plan 2021 and the subsequent sectoral emissions ceiling that will be established for the agriculture sector over the coming weeks.  

My position has been consistent on this matter, agriculture will indeed need to step up its climate ambitions, like all sectors, in order to ensure that the economy wide reduction of a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030 is achieved.  However, agriculture is not unique in this regard as climate change is a challenge for everyone in society.

The Climate Act makes its clear that the social and economic role of agriculture, alongside the distinct charesteristics of biogenic methane, must be fully considered when setting a final emissions ceiling for the sector. I am satisfied that the Government will be able to achieve its stated climate objectives, while at the same time continuing to produce high quality sustainable food. I am also keen that diversification options are provided to farmers as part of our climate transformation.

Some farmers may choose to take these up, whether it be increased forestry planting or growing grass as a feedstock for an Anaerobic Digestion industry.

However, the final target that is set for the sector must be realistic, otherwise, there is risk that we will undermine our international reputation as a carbon efficient producer of meat and milk protein.

Agriculture Industry

Ceisteanna (879)

Jennifer Whitmore

Ceist:

879. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of phytosanitary certificates issued by his Department for peat products exported for certain companies (details supplied) per year, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38840/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department, as the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) of Ireland, is responsible for issuing phytosanitary certificates in accordance with legislative requirements for the export of plants, plant products and other objects, which also includes peat.  My Department is not involved in the regulation of peat extraction or in commercial decisions regarding peat sales. 

Consignor level details on phytosanitary certificates cannot be provided as this is commercially sensitive information.  Therefore, the following table provides information on the number of phytosanitary certificates issued for peat to non-European Union countries and the overall tonnage per year as recorded and available on our databases from 2015 onwards. 

Year

No. of Phyto Certs

Quantity Tonnes

2015

533

48,918

2016

423

50,771

2017

423

55,480

2018

445

55,476

2019

599

62,072

2020

620

59,730

2021

485

53,541

2022 to date

192

26,782

Agriculture Industry

Ceisteanna (880)

Jennifer Whitmore

Ceist:

880. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of phytosanitary certificates issued for peat produced issued by his Department to non-European Union countries; the tonnage for each certificate per year between 2011 to 2021 and to date in 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38841/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department, as the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) of Ireland, is responsible for issuing phytosanitary certificates in accordance with legislative requirements for the export of plants, plant products and other objects, which also includes peat.  My Department is not involved in the regulation of peat extraction or in commercial decisions regarding peat sales. 

The following table provides information on the number of phytosanitary certificates issued for peat exports to non-European Union countries; the overall tonnage covered by the phytosanitary certificates issued from 2015 onwards as recorded on my Department's database.  Quantities were not recorded on the database prior to 2015.    

Year

No. of Phyto Certs

Quantity Tonnes

2011

323

 -

2012

397

 -

2013

482

 -

2014

578

 -

2015

533

48,918

2016

423

50,771

2017

423

55,480

2018

445

55,476

2019

599

62,072

2020

620

59,730

2021

485

53,541

2022 to date

192

26,782

Animal Welfare

Ceisteanna (881)

Jennifer Whitmore

Ceist:

881. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the timeline for introduction of legislation to address hunting of feral goats in Ireland; the current regulations that exist in relation to this activity; and the protection that will now be afforded to the old Irish goat which was recently granted native rare breed status.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38843/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is responsible for legislation concerning hunting in Ireland.  My Department recently recognised the Old Irish Goat as a Native Rare Breed.  This recognition follows the work of the Old Irish Goat Society over to a number of years involving the characterisation of the breed, including DNA analysis.  My Department has contributed financially to this work and on-going projects of the Old Irish Goat Society.  Whilst I acknowledge the Deputy’s concerns on hunting of feral or wild goats, this is not within the remit of my Department.

Hunting of Feral Goats

Agriculture Schemes

Ceisteanna (882)

Danny Healy-Rae

Ceist:

882. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will give recognition to social farming and provide adequate funding to allow for the programme to be expanded and developed further in order to make it more readily available for persons with disabilities and other issues. [36900/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I fully recognise the significance of social farming for many rural communities throughout the country and the many benefits for disadvantaged groups who are availing of a range of health service supports.  My Department provided funding last year totalling almost €777,000 towards the development of the national Social Farming Network and for the development of the following social farming model projects:

- Leitrim Integrated Development Company CLG – for the provision of a Social Farming Model Project where social farming is mainstreamed as an option for people accessing supports across a range of sectors and services and where placements are fully commissioned.

- Down Syndrome Irl (Cork Branch) – to provide opportunities for participation in a purpose-built farm, the Field of Dreams with horticulture and animal care elements which will bring long lasting wellness benefits to participants.

- South Kerry Development Partnership – for a Social Farming Model Project which will increase participant and host farmers engagement so that the social farming opportunity is available to more people in Kerry and to offer choice to people with disabilities to engage with farm families in meeting their personal life choices.

- IRD Duhallow – for a Social Farming model project which will promote rehabilitation, social inclusion, training and improved quality of life in a non-clinical setting using agriculture including plants and animals for people across a wide spectrum of disability. 

An extension is possible under the terms of these contracts and it is intended that similar funding will be provided in 2022.

Public Sector Pensions

Ceisteanna (883)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

883. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of staff who are abated under his Department in accordance with the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and Other Provisions) Act 2012, in tabular form. [38945/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I confirm that staff in my Department's HR Division is currently liaising with the National Shared Services Office (NSSO) to obtain and prepare the information requested by the Deputy.  The information will be send directly to the Deputy within the next ten working days.

Animal Diseases

Ceisteanna (884)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

884. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the assistance available to farmers whose herds are locked up due to bovine tuberculosis being found in their herd; if it is intended to improve this assistance given the increase in the cost of maintaining stock; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39025/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I am acutely aware of the emotional and financial impacts on farm families as a result of a TB breakdown. There are number of financial supports are available to farmers who experience a TB breakdown.

The main element is the On Farm Market Valuation Scheme which compensates eligible herd-owners up to the market value an individual animal would have attained on the open market at the time of breakdown. 

The Department officials attend marts nationwide each week to collect sales data.  This data is then used to produce a weekly list of "Summary Market Prices" which reflect the most up to date available market values for each category of animal.

In addition to the On Farm Market Valuation Scheme, there are further supplementary schemes that eligible herd owners can avail of; the Income Supplement Scheme, Hardship Grants and Depopulation Grants.

Income Supplement is payable where disease breakdown results in the removal of more than 10%of animals in a herd in the relevant restriction period. Dairy herds become eligible where at least 10% of the dairy cows are removed as reactors.

Hardship Grants are awarded to eligible herds to alleviate the additional feed costs incurred by farmers whose holdings are restricted on foot of a herd retest during the period 1st November to 30th April and where animals are retained and fed during periods of restriction.

Depopulation Grants may be paid to eligible herd owners whose herds are depopulated (totally or partially). Grants are paid for each animal removed in the depopulation measure and for those removed as reactors since the holding was restricted, on condition that the Herd owner agrees to the depopulation at the time specified by the Department.

As part of the work of the TB Forum, a dedicated Financial Working Group comprising representatives from my Department and stakeholders has been set up to review the current financial model of the TB programme.

The financial model underpins the funding for all schemes and grants under the Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Scheme. Discussions are advancing, and recommendations from the Finance Working Group will be put forward to the TB Forum for consideration.

Gníomhaireachtaí Rannacha

Ceisteanna (885)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

885. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Talmhaíochta, Bia agus Mara an dtógfaidh sé ceist le Bord Iascaigh Mhara faoi cén fáth nár sheol siad freagra chugam nuair a d’iarr sé orthu amhlaidh a dhéanamh i dtaca le ceist pharlaiminte a chuir mé ar an 21/6/2022 (sonraí tugtha); an gcuirfidh sé ina luí orthu an tábhacht a bhaineann le ceisteanna den sórt seo a fhreagairt go pras; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [39045/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Tá sé curtha in iúl dom ag Bord Iascaigh Mhara go raibh na hábhair a d'ardaigh an Teachta á scrúdú aige sular thug sé freagra. Tuigim freisin gur measadh an duine a d’ainmnigh an Teachta a bheith neamh-incháilithe faoin Scéim um Choigeartú Múnla Gnó Iascaigh Chladaigh Brexit, ach go raibh achomharc curtha isteach aige, agus a thaifid díolacháin á nuashonrú aige ar an gCóras Nótaí Díolacháin arna chothabháil ag an Údarás um Chosaint Iascaigh Mhara. Chuir BIM in iúl dom gur measadh gur éirigh leis an achomharc ag eascairt as na taifid díolacháin nuashonraithe agus go ndéanfaidh BIM teagmháil leis an duine an tseachtain seo chun a chur in iúl go n-íocfar an deontas go luath.

Coillte Teoranta

Ceisteanna (886)

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

886. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 340 of 7 July 2022, if he has ensured that Coillte’s remit supports the delivery of climate change commitments and the protection of biodiversity; the means by which this was ensured; the evidential basis for his satisfaction that Coillte is adapting its approach and practices to meet the emerging climate and biodiversity challenges to the commitment made in the Programme for Government to ensure that Coillte’s remit supports the delivery of climate change commitments and the protection of biodiversity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39136/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As mentioned in my response to the previous ParIiamentary Question, I am satisfied that Coillte is adapting its approach and practices to meet the emerging climate and biodiversity challenges, while fulfilling its remit as a commercial entity, and that this approach will deliver on the multiple benefits that their forests have to offer for  people, the economy and the environment.  

 As already advised Coillte has a  not-for-profit wing,  Coillte Nature, which is focused on new native woodlands and biodiversity restoration projects at scale. One fifth of Coillte lands are currently managed with biodiversity as the primary objective, with an undertaking in the Coillte strategic vision to increase this to 50% in the long term. Current projects include the following and their delivery, along with future delivery on  the commitment to increase biodiversity in the longer term, will provide the evidential basis for meeting the biodiversity challenge: 

- The Dublin Mountains Makeover, involving the replacement of non-native with native woodlands;

- The Midlands Native Woodland Project which aims to plant approximately 4 million native trees across 1500 hectares of Bord na Móna land no longer used for peat production;

- The Wild Western Peatlands Project which aims to restore and rehabilitate approximately 2,100 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog and heathland currently planted with lodgepole pine and Sitka spruce forests;

- The Hazelwood Forest Project in Co Sligo, to remove invasive species and restore alluvial woodlands.

Furthermore and as stated previously under their new forestry strategic vision, Coillte aims to grow 100,000 hectares of new forests by 2050, supporting the delivery of one-third of Ireland’s afforestation target and providing a carbon sink of 18 million tonnes of CO2. Coillte are also committing to managing its existing forest estate to capture an additional 10 million tonnes of CO2 by 2050.  The evidential basis for Coillte's delivery on its cllmate change commitments will be this increased afforestation and the realisation of climate mitigation measures such redesigning poorly productive peatlands, extended rotations on selected stands and better management of broadleaves.

Agriculture Industry

Ceisteanna (887)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Ceist:

887. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the mitigations that are being considered to reduce the cost of farm inputs such as fertiliser and fuel and to ensure the sustainability of family farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39147/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The current situation in relation to the cost and availability of farm inputs and its impacts on farm families is a key priority of mine at present.  Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine led to significant hikes in energy, feed and fertiliser prices and significant concerns around supply chain disruption. 

Earlier this year, I established the National Fodder and Food Security Committee to prepare an industry response to the emerging crisis in feed, fodder, fertiliser and other inputs, and to develop contingency plans and advice to assist farmers in managing their farm enterprises. This Group continues to meet and I will continue to engage closely with the sector as we work together on these significant challenges.

Within my Department, I established a Rapid Response Team, chaired by the Secretary General, to actively monitor the impacts on agri-food supply chains and to contribute to the whole of Government response to this crisis.

I launched the Teagasc 2022 Soils, Nutrients and Fertiliser Campaign at the start of the year in response to the unprecedented fertiliser price levels.  This credible roadmap has helped farmers reduce their dependency on chemical fertiliser in the longer-term. Teagasc has also issued revised advice to farmers on the recommended application amounts of fertilisers for silage fields to reflect the increase in fertiliser price.

Given Ireland’s dependence on imported feed, I announced a package of targeted interventions for the tillage sector and a multi-species sward initiative worth over €12 million to support Irish farmers on 22nd March. The package supports the growing of additional tillage and protein crops and the establishment of multi-species swards lowering demand for chemical fertiliser. Following on from the package of measures announced in recent months to provide support to Irish farmers, I launched a €56 million Fodder Support Scheme on 15th June 2022.

My Department continues to closely monitor the evolving situation and is actively engaging with the EU Commission, across Government and with industry as this situation unfolds 

As the Deputy is aware, I am committed to supporting our farm families and their businesses through this very challenging period.

Agriculture Industry

Ceisteanna (888)

Matt Carthy

Ceist:

888. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the regulations which govern if an underpass is fit for purpose with regard to poultry; the reason that it was adjudicated not to be the case in an instance (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39196/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

There are no specific regulations in relation to whether an underpass is fit for purpose with regard to poultry.  However, there are specific regulations for the use of the term 'free range'.  The term ‘free range’ is legally defined for eggs and can only be used on eggs when certain production and processing criteria, as outlined in Commission Regulation (EC) No 589/2008 of 23 June 2008 laying down detailed rules for implementing Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 as regards marketing standards for eggs, are met.

The EU marketing standards for eggs are designed to ensure that the quality of the product stays high, that consumers are protected and that standards are consistent throughout the EU market place.

There has been ongoing engagement between my Department and the producer concerned.  It has not been adequately demonstrated to the satisfaction of my Department that the hens are accessing the full range area necessary to meet the threshold set out in Annex II of Commission Regulation No. 589/2008.

I am satisfied that my Department has been fair and reasonable in assessing this application in accordance with the relevant legislation. However, ultimately it is the responsibility of the producer to ensure that the production meets the requirements of the legislation, particularly in terms of Annex II of Commission Regulation No. 589/2008 as regards the marketing standards for eggs.

Control of Horses

Ceisteanna (889)

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

889. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of horses seized under the Control of Horses Act 1996 in each of the past five years in tabular form. [39255/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Control of Horses Act 1996 provides powers to local authorities enabling them to control stray and wandering horses in their geographical areas.  Enforcement of the Act is a matter for each local authority.

Section 15 of the Act provides that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine may make grants towards the expenses of a local authority incurred under the Act.  Based on the claims for financial support submitted to the Department by the local authorities, the figures below detail the number of equines seized in each of the last five years.

2017: 1,603

2018: 1,460

2019: 1,050

2020: 819

2021: 477

Control of Horses

Ceisteanna (890)

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

890. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the funding provided to Cork City Council for the control of horses in each of the past five years in tabular form. [39280/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Control of Horses (COH) Act 1996 (the Act) provides powers to local authorities, enabling them to control stray and wandering horses in their geographical areas. Enforcement of  the Act is a matter for the relevant local authority, in this case Cork City Council. In line with the Act, My Department provides funding to the council as a contribution towards the costs incurred by them in operation of the COH Act. 

Funding provided to Cork City Council by my Department in this regard over the last five years may be summarised as follows:

2017: €11,950.00

2018: €14,200.00

2019: €4,675.00

2020: €2,375.00

2021: €4,975.00

2022 to date: €1,550.00

The Programme for Government places a positive emphasis on animal welfare and specifically commits to the continued robust enforcement of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013. This Act provides a modern framework for regulating and applying standards in the area of animal health and welfare. My Department enforces this legislation, and has addressed a number of welfare issues in recent years in both Cork City and County, working closely with An Garda Síochána and authorised officers from the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and local authority officials.

Agriculture Industry

Ceisteanna (891)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

891. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he continues to strive to ensure that climate emission targets can be achieved without damage to the agri-food sector given the pivotal role that sector plays in the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39302/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Deputy will be aware that the issue of maintaining food production has been the subject of much discussion over recent months, particularly in the context of the Climate Action Plan 2021 and the establishment of sectoral emission ceilings.

My position has been consistent on this matter, agriculture will indeed need to step up its climate ambitions, like all sectors, in order to ensure that the economy wide reduction of a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030 is achieved.  However, agriculture is not unique in this regard as climate change is a challenge for everyone in society.

The Climate Act makes its clear that the social and economic role of agriculture, alongside the distinct charesteristics of biogenic methane, must be fully considered when setting a final emissions ceiling for the sector.

I am satisfied that the Government will be able to achieve its stated climate objectives, while at the same time continuing to produce high quality sustainable food. I am also keen that diversification options are provided to farmers as part of our climate transformation. Some farmers may choose to take these up, whether it be increased forestry planting or growing grass as a feedstock for an Anaerobic Digestion industry.

However, the final target that is set for the sector must be realistic, otherwise, there is risk that we will undermine our international reputation as a carbon efficient producer of meat and milk protein. This is something that must be avoided.

Agriculture Industry

Ceisteanna (892)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

892. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total number of persons that are currently employed directly or indirectly in the agri-food sector; the extent to which it is expected to ensure the future of the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39303/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Department  of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) continually monitors the levels of employment in the agriculture and wider agri-food sector. Employment figures are primarily sourced from the Central Statistics Office's (CSO) quarterly Labour Force Survey.

The agri-food sector is an essential part of the economic and social fabric of Ireland, especially in rural and coastal areas. Irish food is produced by farmers, fishers and agri-food companies around the country and this locally produced food is exported to over 180 countries around the world. 

Employment in the Agri-food sector accounted for 170,400 people, representing 7.1% of the total workforce in Ireland in 2021. The average numbers employed during 2021 in agriculture, forestry and fishing were 107,000, with 49,650 employed in the manufacture of food products, 7,750 employed in the manufacture of beverages and about 6,000 employed in the wood and wood-processing sector.

It should be noted that the Labour Force Survey is based on the main employment a person reports in the survey. Where a part-time farmer reports their off-farm job as their main employment, they will not be recorded as working in primary agriculture. Teagasc in their annual National Farm Survey outline that up to 34% of farm holders have off-farm employment while 54% of farm holders and/or their spouse has an off farm employment.

It is also important to note that while the overall level of employment from these sectors is 7.1% of total employment nationwide, the proportion of employment outside Dublin is much greater. For example, CSO data shows that in the border region the agri-food sector employment accounted for 14.2% of overall employment and accounted for over 12% in the south-east region.

Agriculture Industry

Ceisteanna (893)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

893. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which the dairy sector continues to expand worldwide in terms of exports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39304/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Irish dairy Industry is one of our largest and most profitable sectors. Irish dairy exports exceeded the €5 billion mark in 2021 for the third consecutive year, with exports to over 140 countries worldwide.

The Irish dairy industry is built on the family-farm tradition. The high quality of Irish milk produced on our family farms from sustainable grass-based production systems contributes enormously to the success of the industry. Our dairy farmers produce top quality produce across the country and their work and efforts keeps our towns, villages and rural areas vibrant, spreading employment and continuing with our great agricultural tradition.

As a result of the hard work of all dairy industry stakeholders over the last number of years, including our dairy farmers and their families, our milk processors, our regulators, our exporters and our marketeers; international customers across the globe recognise the quality of Irish dairy products. My Department along with Bord Bia will continue to engage intensively with the competent authorities and trade customers in other countries, to ensure that this effort is recognised so that as many markets as possible are available for Irish dairy products.

In 2021, there were strong market returns across the core categories of butter, cheese and powders, coupled with a diversified market spread, helped sustain a strong demand during the year.

 Food Vision 2030 , the new ten-year strategy for the Irish agri-food sector, sets a vision for Ireland to become a world leader in sustainable food systems over the decade ahead, taking account of the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainability. I subsequestly established the Food Vision Dairy Group to advance the specific actions for dairy set out in the strategy, and as a priority action to provide me with a report on how the dairy sector can stabilise and then reduce emissions. I look forward to receiving the Group's final report on this issue shortly.

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