Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Written Answers
 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1-25
 Header Item Trade Missions Participation
 Header Item Horse Racing Industry Funding
 Header Item Common Agricultural Policy Reform
 Header Item Departmental Communications
 Header Item Animal Welfare Issues
 Header Item Forestry Grants
 Header Item Agriculture and Marine Sectors
 Header Item Beef Industry Issues
 Header Item Beef Imports
 Header Item Parking Charges
 Header Item Aquaculture Licences Applications
 Header Item Trade Agreements
 Header Item Alternative Farm Enterprises
 Header Item Mink Farms

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 821 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 78 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].

Written Answers Nos. 1-25

  Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Trade Missions Participation

 10. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will outline the details of his trade mission to the Gulf region; if he foresees any benefits this will have for the agrifood sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [48351/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Last month, I led the largest ever Irish agri-food trade delegation of 35 companies to the Gulf States of Qatar, United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with representatives from the meat, dairy, seafood, beverages, bloodstock and agri-services sectors and government bodies. The trade mission was organised by my Department, with the assistance of Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland, Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, Horse Sport Ireland and Horse Racing Ireland.

The purpose of the trade mission was to deepen political and commercial relationships between Ireland and Qatar, UAE and Saudi, and to assist in expanding our exports to this critically important target region. I also promoted Ireland as a strategic partner in the Gulf States in terms of their food security challenges, for joint investments in dairy and other sectors, as a provider of commercial and advanced expertise in the agri food and agri services sector, as a source of the highest quality thoroughbred and sport horses, and as a location to invest in the equine sector.

The trade mission was viewed as a success at both political and commercial levels. The Irish Dairy Board’s announcement of a €20 million investment in a Saudi Dairy company Al Waseen will result in the importation of significant volumes of Irish milk powders to Saudi and the production of approximately 20,000t of a ‘white cheese’ specific to the region, using new technology developed by Teagasc. In addition, the opening of the Kerry Food and Ingredients development centre in UAE, which will produce products specific to the Middle East market, has also consolidated the Irish presence and reputation in the food sector in the region.

Bord Bia will shortly open a new office in UAE to assist food companies exporting to the region. Food exports to the Gulf States amounted to almost €200 million in 2012. There is potential to double that figure by 2020 as almost 90% of the food consumed in this region is imported. Biotector, an Irish company signed a €5m contract for the supply of its water analysis technology in Saudi Arabia while the nine technology companies that came on the trade mission have built significant business contacts and I would anticipate follow up business.

The development of Ireland’s €1billion equine sector was a significant focus of the mission and included meetings with Mohammed Bin Faleh Al Thani of the Qatari Royal family which has bloodstock interests in Ireland, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, Vice Premier and Minister for Finance in Dubai and other key investors in the Irish equine industry. Linkages with the sport horse sector are also very strong and I would expect to see these developing over the coming years.

My Department, in conjunction with the respective Embassies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are following up on the establishment of Memoranda of Understanding on the cooperation on food security and commercialisation of expertise.

In addition, I met with members of the Irish Diaspora in the Gulf Region and I would like to put on record the incredible work which they are all, both individually and collectively, doing on our behalf of Ireland in promoting Irish food and business in this region.

  Questions Nos. 11 and 12 answered orally.

Horse Racing Industry Funding

 13. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the reason he ignores the Indecon report commissioned by his Department in 2012 which stated that the grant to the greyhound and horse racing industries was unsustainable; and the reason he chose to increase their subsidy to €54 million. [48142/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Indecon Report

  Indecon Consultants were commissioned by my Department to undertake a review of certain aspects of the Irish horse racing industry. The terms of reference provided to Indecon did not extend to the greyhound racing industry. The Indecon Review consisted of an in-depth analysis of the legislation, governance structures, funding and management of the horse racing industry in Ireland and the report published in July 2012, contained a range of recommendations to assist in the future long-term development of the sector.

  The Deputy is mistaken in thinking that State support for the horse and greyhound racing industries has increased. In fact State funding for the horse racing industry has decreased each year since 2008 when the provision was €61m, to the 2013 provision of €44m, reflecting a decrease of 28% over the period Research recently published by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association indicates that the horse racing and breeding industry supports 14,000 jobs and creates €1.1bn in economic output. State funding for the greyhound racing industry has also been reduced by 28% in the same period.

  The Indecon Report confirmed the importance and potential of the Irish Horse Racing Industry and affirmed that with appropriate policies and structures in place the sector can contribute to the economic and social development of the country and to the expansion of employment.

  Indecon made a number of recommendations with regard to funding, legislation and governance, streamlining of functions between the Turf Club & HRI and improved marketing and competitiveness of the sector. I have confirmed, some time ago, my general acceptance of the recommendations contained in the Indecon Report and I have since the publication of the Report done my best to ensure the recommendations contained in the Report are followed through.

  Indecon did not state that “grant to the greyhound and horse racing industries was unsustainable”. It did, however, point to the need for change in the State funding model and in particular identified the betting industry as being “the main potential source of additional funding. It also stated “that, in terms of funding, it is important that sufficient funding is provided to ensure reasonable prize money and to enhance the reputation of the Irish horse racing sector. Resources are also needed to finance racing integrity services, which are essential to the maintenance of the credibility and reputation of the sector. The development of racecourses and maintaining the disease free status of Irish bloodstock also require appropriate funding. In addition, effective international marketing is an important component in realising the economic potential of this unique sector.”

  I am pleased to inform the Deputy there are changes imminent to address the anomalies that exist with regard to the taxation of betting. My colleague, the Minister for Finance, is responsible for taxation policy and he introduced the Betting (Amendment) Bill 2013 earlier this year which will bring remote and on-line betting within the tax net. This legislation is working its way through the system and is currently with the European Commission. This is consistent with the Indecon recommendation which advocated “Measures should be introduced to secure a significant increase in taxation from the Betting Sector.”   

  I am also mindful of the need as highlighted by Indecon to maximise efficiency, effectiveness and value for money, I am aware that the Turf Club and Horse Racing Ireland have been engaged in on-going negotiations with a view to streamlining functions between the two bodies with a view to eliminating duplication.

  Finally, it is important to recognise that the horse and greyhound racing industries together provide almost 24,000 jobs, many of them in rural Ireland, and stimulate approximately €1.6 billion in economic output annually. I will continue to work to ensure that these important sectors continue to make the maximum possible contribution to employment and the economy generally.

Common Agricultural Policy Reform

 14. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will ensure that co-funding for the Common Agricultural Policy Pillar 2 will be maximised; and that Ireland will benefit from the total €313 million that has been allocated for Ireland for Pillar 2 purposes.  [48283/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The European Council agreement on the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) provides a total of €2.19bn, or some €313m per year, for Ireland under Pillar 2 of the CAP for the period 2014-2020. The development of a new Rural Development Programme under Pillar 2 will be a key support in enhancing the competitiveness of the agri-food sector, achieving more sustainable management of natural resources and ensuring a more balanced development of rural areas.

A general EU co-financing rate of 53% is set out in the draft Rural Development Regulation but this rate may rise to a maximum of 80% for measures such as farm and business development, co-operation activities, and LEADER projects. Environmental type measures may be co-funded up to 75%. The total Exchequer funding that will be required to draw down the available EAFRD funding will depend on the types of measures included in the new Rural Development Programme and on the co-financing rates applied to these measures.

There are a number of conditions attached to Ireland’s allocation of €313 million per annum. The draft Regulation provides that at least 5% of EAFRD funding must be reserved for LEADER while the draft Common Provisions Regulation provides that 6% of EAFRD funding must be set aside to a national performance reserve. The funding set aside to the performance reserve will be allocated to each Member State following a performance review in 2019. Finally, the draft Rural Development Regulation sets out that 30% of the total EAFRD amount must be reserved for environmental operations and climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

Work is currently ongoing in my Department to design the new Rural Development Programme (RDP) for the period from 2014-2020. In designing the new RDP, my Department must take account of the range of requirements set out in the draft Rural Development Regulation and the need to support key policy aims for the agri-food sector in the light of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy. In undertaking this work, a number of ex-ante analyses are being undertaken and a public consultation process has also taken place.

While final decisions in relation to what measures are to be included in the new RDP have not yet been made, my Department is in ongoing contact with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the overall financing that will be required. I expect to make decisions in relation to the measures to be supported under the new RDP by the end of this year, and to submit a draft programme to the Commission in early 2014.

Departmental Communications

 15. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of hours spent by staff in his Department since he came to office in the preparation of ministerial newsletters; the cost of staff time involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48240/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney On my appointment as Minister I was struck by the range, variety and complexity of work carried out in this Department and the importance of communicating this important work to a wider public. Corporate Affairs Division of my Department is responsible for the communication of information to the public, and this is done through a variety of methods including speeches by Ministers, press releases and through presenting relevant information on the Department’s website. On taking my Office I asked that Division to use the available resources to increase the public awareness of the vast array of activities in my Department and the idea of a cost effective method of doing this would be an online newsletter.

Since my appointment I have issued nine such newsletters, while it is not possible to quantify the precise cost of this exercise because the officials involved do this work in conjunction with other related work, every effort is made to keep this cost to a minimum and I can confirm that no additional resources were employed either internally nor externally for this purpose.

Animal Welfare Issues

 16. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the steps he is taking to provide an outlet for horses surplus to the horse industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48139/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Horses can be slaughtered for human consumption subject to a number of conditions, including that they have been registered within six months of birth or by 31st December of the year of birth whichever is the later, have not have been treated with any prohibited veterinary medicines and are accompanied to the slaughterhouse by the horse passport. This latter requirement is an essential part of the food-chain information under EU food law and is designed to protect human health.

With regard to surplus horses, the position is that it is the responsibility of horse owners to ensure the welfare of horses in their ownership and/or their care and to dispose of them appropriately. In this context, horse owners are reminded of the advice of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council that, where an owner can no longer adequately provide for their horse or where the horse can no longer fulfil the purpose for which is was bred, he or she should be proactive in seeking to dispose of the animal, including consideration of the option of humane disposal.

My Department provides significant funding to Local Authorities under the Control of Horses Act, 1996, to enable these bodies implement their powers relating to the control and welfare of stray or abandoned horses. While efforts are made to rehome horses to responsible new owners, the reality is that this is not possible in all cases. Local authorities are humanely disposing of a considerable number of horses seized under the Control of Horses Act on an on-going basis where there is no possibility of re-homing or returning these horses to their owners.

The need for additional welfare measures in the horse sector is being kept under review by my Department. The very good weather during the Summer and well into the Autumn has created a very favourable fodder situation, with the result that there is no evidence of a significant problem in relation to the welfare of horses. In addition, the continuing work being undertaken by local authorities in conjunction with the Department via the Control of Horses Act 1996 has reduced the number of abandoned horses throughout the country, particularly in urban areas.

My Department will continue to deal with any animal welfare issues relating to horses through its existing mechanisms and has indicated that it is in position to provide emergency funding to assist horse owners who cannot afford to pay for their humane disposal. Farmers who are facing a critical horse welfare issue over coming months can contact the Department helpline for assistance.

Forestry Grants

 17. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if permission for winter planting for forestry grants will be extended to 31 January 2014 to enable farmers who intend planting land this winter to draw their disadvantaged areas payment for 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48239/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Afforestation grants are processed in two stages, commonly known as technical approval and financial approval. In the Autumn of each year, there is a limited opening of the second stage, that is financial approval, to those who have already received technical approval and are ready to plant, once the weather and other conditions are suitable for planting - usually within the late Autumn or early Winter period. This year, the Autumn planting was opened on 24 September with a completion date for planting of 31 December 2013.

It is important to stress that this invitation to apply for financial approval was limited to those owners who were ready to commence planting within 6 weeks of the date of their financial approval letter all of which were issued in the week beginning 7 October 2013. This means planting must substantially commence by mid- November 2013. The completion date for planting as set out in their notification of financial approval is 31 December 2013. It was a matter for landowners to decide if this timescale suited their individual circumstances having regard to the qualifying conditions for other Departmental Schemes, including the Disadvantaged Area Scheme. If the timing did not suit their individual circumstances to plant their land before the end of this year it was open to them to defer submitting an application until they were ready to plant.

Following the announcement in the Budget of the allocation for forestry in 2014, my Department is now in a position to re-open the afforestation schemes for financial approval on an open-ended basis. There is no deadline for the submission of applications for financial approval. The timing of the application will be determined by the applicant’s readiness to plant and the completion date for planting for these applicants will extend into 2014. The Department will closely monitor financial approvals to ensure that available budgets are not exceeded.

For beneficiaries under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme who must maintain their land in agricultural use for the entire calendar year in order to qualify for payment, and who have yet to commence planting, they can apply under this release and commence planting in 2014.

Agriculture and Marine Sectors

 18. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the extent to which the agriculture and marine sectors have contributed to economic growth year on year over the past five years with particular reference to the beef, dairy, lamb, pig meat and fishing sectors; the extent to which scope remains available for further development in this regard with consequent benefits to economic recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48342/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The agri-food and beverage sector plays a very significant role in national economic development. It currently accounts for 7.1% of national gross value-added and 8.6% of employment. It has an annual turnover of €25 billion and its gross output of €20 billion comprises 21% of Ireland’s total industrial gross output. Between 2008 and 2012, the sector’s contribution to national GVA rose from 6.1% to 7.1%.

  However, these figures, significant as they are, may actually underestimate the importance of the sector to national economic development. The Deputy should be aware that more than 75% of the expenditure in this sector is on Irish goods and services, compared to 42% for all manufacturing. In addition it has a lower import content and a lower level of profit repatriation than other manufacturing industries. In fact every €100 of exports from the bio-sector (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food & drink industries) contributes around €48 to GNP while the ‘non bio-sector’ contributes around €19.

  Last year, Irish food and drink exports exceeded €9 billion for the first time; this means that over the last three years these exports have risen by 28%, or €2bn, in total. This trend is continuing, the latest CSO figures for food & beverage exports show a 7% rise in the first half of 2013 as compared to the same period in 2012.

  The Deputy specifically asked for data on beef, dairy, lamb, pig meat and fishing over the past five years. Exports for these commodities improved from 2008 to 2012 as follows

- Beef - increased by 19% from €1,590m to €1,900m

- Dairy- Increased by 14% from €2,290m to €2,620m

- Lamb- increased by 27% from €167m to €212m

- Pig- increased by 43% from €354m to €507m

- Seafood- increase by 50% from €335m to €501m.

  Agri-food is a sector which is confident and ambitious and is enjoying a period of strong success. This success is assisted to a large extent by the implementation of Food Harvest 2020. I lead the strategic committee, comprising the CEOs of the relevant State agencies, which drives the implementation of this report. I am fully committed to achieving the growth targets set out in Food Harvest 2020. Milestones for Success 2013, the 3rd Food Harvest progress report, published in September, illustrates the excellent progress achieved to date. Headline figures show that we are well on our way towards achieving our 2020 growth targets. We have already achieved a 25% increase in the value of primary agricultural output (the projected 2020 target is a 33% increase). Over the same period we have achieved a 13% increase in the value of our exports and value added has risen by 20%.

  In relation to the scope for future development, the Deputy will know that there is a growing global urbanised market. World population will be over 9 billion by 2050 and food production levels must increase by 60-70% to feed this growing population. Ireland has a number of competitive advantages which leave us well placed to meet this growing demand.

Beef Industry Issues

 19. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he intends asking the Council of Agriculture Ministers to set up a European wide investigation into the operation of beef processing plants in order to ensure that no cartels are in operation, that free trade and competition is operating properly across the Union and that the practices in all plants from a business, competition, labelling and health safety point of view comply fully with both EU and national laws and regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48241/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Under Articles 101 to 109 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU, the European Commission, together with national competition authorities, are responsible for the enforcement of EU competition rules. Within the Commission, primary responsibility for direct enforcement rests with the Directorate-General (DG) for Competition. The Council of Ministers has no function in this regard. In parallel with national competition authorities, DG Competition has wide-ranging investigative powers to detect cartel activities and other illegal trading behaviour. In addition, DG Agriculture and Rural Development facilitates price transparency for suppliers through a standardised system of market price reporting implemented by Member States by reference to uniform criteria for classifying bovine carcases according to conformation, fat and sex at slaughter plants.

If there were evidence of systemic failure on the scale implied in the question, then the matter could be brought to the attention of DG Competition. However, I am not aware of any such evidence and in its absence I would be wary of the unintended consequences of undermining consumer confidence in an industry that is hugely important to this country not just in terms of generating almost €2 billion in export earnings last year but also in adding value to the raw material produced by 70,000 specialist beef farmers. These linkages encapsulate the mutually dependent relationship between the production and processing stages of the beef supply chain.

With regard to the more general food policy issues raised by the Deputy, the production of foodstuffs in the EU is governed by an overarching legal framework known as the Hygiene Package. This integrated regime, which came into effect across all Member States on 1 January 2006, sets out clear, comprehensive and consistent rules for operators throughout the supply chain. With traceability as a core concept, the Hygiene Package regulates food and feed hygiene along with the production, control and marketing of products of animal origin, and animal health issues in relation to the production of those products.

The Hygiene Package was motivated by the necessity to ensure high levels of public health protection in relation to food production. The underlying principle is that food producers should bear full responsibility for the safety of the food that they produce. Competent authorities in each jurisdiction are legally obliged to conduct official controls to verify compliance with rules aimed at:

- preventing, eliminating or reducing to acceptable levels risks to humans and animals, either directly or through the environment;

- guaranteeing fair practices in the food trade and protecting consumer interests, including food labelling and other forms of consumer information; and

- rules in relation to labelling are also set down in Marketing Standards Regulations and in the Food Information for the Consumer Regulations.

At national level, my Department, operating under a service contract with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, is the competent authority for the purposes of enforcing the hygiene package in approved meat plants under its supervision. The conduct of all such official controls is subject to regular and rigorous review carried out by the EU’s Food and Veterinary Office, which is tasked with evaluating compliance with standards within the EU and in third countries in relation to their exports to the EU.

The system of checks and controls put in place by the current harmonised regime operating throughout all 28 countries of the EU is therefore sufficiently robust to allow Competent Authorities in Member States to ensure that business practices in the beef processing industry comply with European and domestic regulations pertaining to competition, labelling and food safety and to take appropriate and decisive action where they do not.

Beef Imports

 20. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if, in the wake of the recently announced trade agreement between Canada, US and the European Union, adequate safeguards have been put in place to ensure that beef imports into Europe comply with the same standards as applicable throughout Europe in terms of traceability, husbandry and particularly that the places of origin are accurately recorded, and that the European beef industry does not become disadvantaged by subsequent agreements in the context of the WTO or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48341/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Under the EU/Canada Trade agreement initialled last month by President Barroso and the Canadian Prime Minister, Canada was awarded a tariff rate quota for beef of 50,000 tonnes carcase weight equivalent. This equates to a quota of 39,000 tonnes of boneless beef. The quota is split between fresh/chilled beef comprising 31,000 tonnes, plus the existing 4,000 tonnes quota as part of the Hormones Agreement, and frozen beef comprising 15,000 tonnes.

The agreement has yet to be endorsed by the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Moreover, certain matters, including details of the management of tariff rate quotas, have still to be finalised. However, I can tell you that under EU veterinary legislation the principle of equivalence will apply. This means that all imports of beef into the EU must be produced to standards equivalent to those applicable in the EU and in plants that are approved by the EU Commission. The regime is monitored by the EU Food and Veterinary Office.

Ireland operates EU harmonised import controls on products of animal origin arriving from third countries. Thus, in practical terms, the conditions applicable to imports of beef from Canada are based on the agreement between the European Community and the Government of Canada on sanitary measures applicable to trade in live animals and animal products. The beef must be sourced from an approved export establishment, that is on an EU list, and comply with the relevant standards and requirements which have been recognised as equivalent to those of the European Community. Consignments must be presented at a community border inspection post on arrival accompanied by a veterinary certificate, drawn up in conformity with the relevant model, attesting to compliance with the standards and requirements for the product, completed and signed on behalf of the Canadian competent authorities. A documentary and identity check is carried out on all consignments and a proportion of consignments are physically checked and sampled as part of a monitoring programme to ensure conformity.

Parking Charges

 21. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has arrived at a decision in respect of the proposal to introduce paid parking charges at Howth Harbour, County Dublin. [48143/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The House will be aware that I have been considering introducing a charge for parking facilities within Howth Fishery Harbour Centre for some time,

- to assist in operating Howth Fishery Harbour Centre on a financially-sound basis,

- to provide a source of revenue for further investment in Fishery Harbour Centre facilities,

- as part of an overall traffic management plan, and

- in order to maximise the return on this significant State asset.

  There is a broad range of factors to consider in coming to a decision; first and foremost Howth Fishery Harbour Centre is a working fishery harbour, one of 6 Fishery Harbour Centres in the State.

  Funding for operating, management and development costs of the Fishery Harbour Centres is a major consideration for my Department. Maximising potential income, and ensuring that the Fishery Harbour Centres are run on a financially-sound basis is extremely important.

  Uniquely among Fishery Harbour Centres, a wide range of groups use the parking facilities of Howth Fishery Harbour – harbour business customers, yacht club members, sport fishermen, Dart users, tourists, walkers and many others.   

  I am well aware of and acknowledge the concerns of local residents and user groups and Deputy Broughan and the House can rest assured that I will take appropriate account of their views in coming to my decision. I can also assure the harbour users in Howth that I am committed to continuing investment in and development of Howth Harbour going forward.

Aquaculture Licences Applications

 22. Deputy John Browne Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the action points that will be contained in the Irish national aquaculture plan, required under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, to deal with the backlog of circa 600 aquaculture licence applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [48344/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Article 43 of the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) Regulation requires that Member States prepare a multiannual national strategic plan for the development of aquaculture activities in their territory. That article provides that “the multiannual national strategic plan shall include the Member State's objectives and the measures and the timetables required to achieve them”.

Negotiations are continuing among the EU co-legislators on the draft European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Regulation that will specify the measures that may be eligible for EU co-funding for the period 2014-2020. The text of the present draft Regulation provides that the National Strategic Aquaculture Plan required by the CFP Regulation must be prepared and submitted by each Member State together with the Member State’s EMFF Operational Programme.

My Department has requested that Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) prepare the National Strategic Aquaculture Plan and that BIM consult with stakeholders as part of that process. I understand that BIM is engaged on this work and will be publishing it for consultation in the coming months.

The backlog in processing aquaculture licence applications has built up over a period of time and arises primarily because the majority of areas for which these licences are sought are designated Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and/or Special Protection Areas (SPA) under the EU Birds Directive (Natura 2000 sites). The European Court of Justice issued a negative judgment against Ireland in 2007 in respect of authorisation of aquaculture programmes with particular reference to compliance with Article 6.3 of the EU Habitats Directive. This has largely determined what can be done since that time in relation to aquaculture licensing in most of the bays around Ireland (Natura 2000 sites).

To address this issue my Department, in conjunction with the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), is engaged in a comprehensive work programme. This involves gathering baseline data, setting conservation objectives and the carrying out of appropriate assessments. The licensing process must take full account of the outcome of that assessment in reaching a determination on any particular licence application.

This work is ongoing and Conservation Objectives have been set for a significant number of ‘Natura’ sites, Appropriate Assessments have been completed in respect of sites in five bays and it is expected that this will facilitate significant licence determinations. For example, in the region of 40 aquaculture licences have issued this year in respect of Castlemaine SAC/SPA.

Trade Agreements

 23. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the possible effects on Irish agriculture of the free trade agreement with Canada; the effect a free trade with the USA would have and the possible effects of a Mercosur trade deal; the steps he has taken to protect Irelands agricultural and food industries in these negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48242/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Under the EU/Canada Trade agreement initialled last month by President Barroso and the Canadian Prime Minister, Canada was awarded a tariff rate quota for beef of 50,000 tonnes carcase weight equivalent. This equates to a quota of 39,000 tonnes of boneless beef. The quota is split between fresh/chilled beef comprising 31,000 tonnes, plus the existing 4,000 tonnes quota as part of the Hormones Agreement, and frozen beef comprising 15,000 tonnes. As regards pigmeat, Canada was awarded a quota of 75,000 tonnes.

Clearly I would have preferred if these quotas were smaller. However, they were granted against the background of significantly higher demands from Canada for access to the EU beef and pigmeat markets. They also need to be seen against the concessions made by Canada on beef, sheepmeat and, most important, dairy. EU beef and sheepmeat market access to Canada is to be fully liberalised at zero duty dates and I have received undertakings from the EU Commission that the current BSE related restrictions will be lifted before the agreement is finalised. As to the dairy sector, substantial concessions have been granted by Canada on infant formula, milk protein concentrate and cheese. There is complete liberalisation of tariffs on milk protein concentrate and infant formula plus additional new cheese quotas for the EU in excess of 17,000 tonnes.

Moving on to the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the opening of trade negotiations with the United States provides significant opportunities for the Irish agri-food sector to increase their access to the US market. There are also advantages to be gained in terms of possible reductions in tariffs on the products we import. The negotiations will also facilitate the elimination of a series of regulatory barriers and irritants to current trade. Of course we have defensive issues also, for example, in relation to beef market access. However, we are at a very early stage in these negotiations and it is not possible to estimate in detail the impact on Ireland until there is greater clarity about any exchange of offers.

As to the negotiations between the EU and MERCOSUR, there was a commitment earlier this year that both sides would exchange market access offers on goods, services and investment and government procurement by no later than the last quarter of 2013. However, questions are now arising about the change in composition of the MERCOSUR group and its ability to put an offer on the table at this time. Access to the EU market for beef is the key contentious issue for Ireland in the negotiation of the EU-MERCOSUR FTA. I and my officials have been very active in highlighting our concerns to the Commission, submitting a number of technical papers to the Commission outlining mitigating measures to address our concerns.

Alternative Farm Enterprises

 24. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if his Department has examined the possible uses of hemp grown here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48352/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Hemp fibre and seed are used to produce a wide range of commodities including food and beverage products, fibreboard, insulation, paper, composites, textiles, carpets, animal bedding and feed, cosmetics, body-care products, soaps, paints, fuels, and medicines.

  The growing of hemp requires a licence from the Irish Medicines Board (under the auspices of the Department of Health).

  Hemp grown for fibre production is frequently referred to as “industrial” hemp, in order to differentiate it from the plants used for drug production. Industrial hemp has been selectively bred for several decades in order to lower, to almost negligible amounts, the narcotic compound Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In the European Union (EU), the cultivation of hemp (Cannabis   genus) is restricted to varieties having a content of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) lower than 0.2 %. Varieties of non-psychoactive hemp are also grown for seed production. The seeds have mainly been used for bird feed, but increasingly are used to produce hemp oil and as a cooking ingredient.

  Of the estimated 6000 tonnes per year hemp seeds produced in the EU, 95% is sold for animal feed, mainly as bird feed.

  Although hemp seed provides additional and high value income, it can delay harvest and lead to deterioration in fibre quality. But both options present challenges if the best of both seed and fibre yields are to be achieved. Waiting for seeds to be produced and ripen, delays harvest and increases the risk of losses to the weather.

Cannabis sativa   is an annual spring crop which can yield up to and exceeding 12.5 tonnes/ha of whole stems. It has modest fertiliser requirements and it is possible to grow the crop without the use of herbicides, insecticides or fungicides.

  Hemp has been the subject of three different periods of research by Teagasc.  Teagasc findings have noted that yields can vary considerably between seasons. Production is highly dependent on weather conditions at sowing and at harvest and it is particularly vulnerable to wet weather. The crop is sensitive to frost, does not tolerate waterlogging or soils with low Ph.

  The density and height of a mature hemp crop can cause problems when cutting and baling hemp with existing farm machines. Hemp has few pest and disease problems, although weed competition in early establishment can lower yields.

Mink Farms

 25. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the steps that have been implemented to improve standards with regard to the keeping of minks, with reference to the damage that can be done to the surrounding environment when minks are released or escape from captivity. [48141/13]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The keeping of mink is subject to licensing by my Department under the Musk Rats Act, 1933, and the Musk Rats Act, 1933 (Application to Mink) Order, 1965.   There are four mink farm operators currently licensed.    

  Licences are subject to a number of conditions, including the requirement to ensure that maximum steps are taken to prevent the release of mink.    Among those conditions are requirements that mink must be kept in cages or other containers of such material and constructed in such a manner as to prevent their escape, that building where they are kept are constructed so as to prevent the escape of mink.

  Furthermore, licence holders must ensure that trees, shrubs and undergrowth are not growing or planted in such a position that would render the escape of mink possible and must ensure adequate guarding of drainage channels to prevent their escape.

  A full review was undertaken by my Department last year into all aspects of fur farming in Ireland.

  The Group’s Terms of Reference were

1.To review fur farming in Ireland taking account of existing legislative provisions for the licensing of mink farming

2.To comment on the economic benefits of the sector

3.To consider the effectiveness of existing welfare controls, and

4.To make appropriate recommendations

  The Review Group recommended that fur farming should be allowed continue under licence and subject to official control and noted the extensive powers available to the Minister in legislation for revoking of licences in cases of non-compliance with a licence condition and where welfare conditions are not met. Regarding security on Fur Farms it was decided to alter the conditions for holding a licence and enhance the measures to prevent escape of mink.

  Other Recommendations made by the Review Group which have been adopted include:

  - The adoption of Codes of Practice by fur farmers to promote sound welfare and management practices for the care of fur animals.

  - Enhanced Department veterinary and agricultural inspections, including unannounced inspections so that additional confidence can be gained in respect of compliance with animal health, animal welfare, environmental requirements, greater security on the farms and contingency planning.

  My officials are currently engaged with mink farm operators with a view to rolling out these and other changes arising from the Review.


Last Updated: 08/05/2020 17:50:13 First Page Previous Page Page of 78 Next Page Last Page