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 Header Item Live Exports (Continued)
 Header Item Agriculture Schemes Data
 Header Item Departmental Publications

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 824 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten] The fundamental problem with the UK red tractor label is that it is restricting the Common Market. That has EU implications. The issue that needs to be addressed is the restriction of the Common Market because of the label.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace Obviously, the export of live cattle is driven by the current price difference of approximately €1 per kilo. The average price is approximately €3.80 here and approximately €4.80 over there. Rather than promoting live cattle exports, maybe the State should do something about the probable existence of a cartel in the factory beef industry. Surely live cattle exports are a quick fix rather than a long-term solution. The collapse of TLT should serve as a warning rather than a way forward. I put it to the Minister that we need to focus on finding markets for finished products.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I agree.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace That would keep jobs in Ireland. It can be done by challenging the cartel.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I want cattle to be slaughtered and processed in Ireland. There are jobs in these value-adding activities. The same thing applies in the case of seafood. It is important for farmers who do not feel the factories are giving them value for money for their cattle to have an alternative outlet - to keep the factories honest, as many people describe it. That is why we welcomed the opening of the Libyan market to cattle and sheep available earlier this year. I would like the option of a live cattle trade to the UK to exist, but the market has to be given what it is looking for. I remind those who think our access to the UK market has been damaged that we will export €4 billion worth of food and drink, significantly more than we have ever done in the past, to the UK this year. Beef is a major part of that. The value of beef exports to the UK has increased in percentage terms by a double-digit figure in the last 12 months. This issue must be considered in the appropriate context. The UK is by far our biggest export market for food and drink. It accounts for 42% of our food and drink exports, which will be worth almost €10 billion this year. We are building that market. In response to the point that was made about the retention of ownership of animals being transported, I remind Deputy Naughten that we are in a receivership situation. Is he suggesting that the Department should step into the middle of a receivership situation deliberately to frustrate the process? Is he suggesting that an effort should be made to get people to hand over money to certain people who are owed money while others are ignored?

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten No. That is not what I am suggesting. I am suggesting that the Department should assist the receiver's efforts to get as much money as possible from Italy. The Department is not prepared to facilitate that. The Italian authorities are not prepared to facilitate that.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Department has not been asked by the receiver-----

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The powers are there within the EU to ensure those animals are not slaughtered until the money is paid.

Agriculture Schemes Data

 9. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if the mapping and digitisation of uplands takes account of the fact that hill areas contain inclines and slopes that cannot be correctly measured by a mapping system which has regard only for the base area of the mapped area; if he will describe the procedure for mapping elevated lands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53141/13]

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I am asking the Minister whether the procedure within the mapping system for measuring gross area is different in the case of mountain or elevated land, as opposed to flat land.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney One of the challenges faced by those involved with the mapping system is that they have to rely on an image from space. The move from getting images from high-flying aircraft to getting images from satellites has allowed us to be much more precise. The imagery now available to us allows us to see the animals in the fields. I understand some challenges are encountered when photographs are taken from above. There can be some uncertainty regarding contours, etc. That is why some of the imagery has to be backed up with physical inspections. I encourage farmers who feel the new mapping system has in some way treated them unfairly, in terms of land eligibility or anything else, to submit appeals. If there are any question marks in that regard, we will send inspectors out to make judgment calls. There may be genuine problems in cases of lands with significant contours etc. We are aware of this issue. We are open to checking satellite imagery. Images that are crystal clear might not take account of significant contours in mountainous areas. I am sure Deputy Kyne is familiar with cases that may require individual inspections at farm level.

Deputy Seán Kyne: Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne I am not talking about any particular case. I often drive past large mountainous commonage areas that are sloped. Penalties are being imposed on many farmers who are thought to have over-claimed. They are losing money because of this. I think it is a genuine issue. Farmers could be losing a certain number of hectares on the basis of assessments involving the mapping system that is used at present. If the lands in question were assessed by an engineer, it might be found that the gross area is actually higher in some cases.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The measurement of land area within the land parcel identification system respects all national surveying conventions with regard to slopes or hill land. The area quoted on Ordnance Survey Ireland maps, on which much of the land parcel identification system database is built, is based on the principle of measuring the horizontal or two-dimensional area. In cases of sloped land, this is the area of land measured on the flat or plain area. This convention extends to the purchase of agricultural land as well, whereby a purchaser would only pay for the horizontal area within the holding and not the sloped area. This procedure is the same as the method used during the single farm payment reference period. We are doing everything we can, in light of all the information available to us, to try to take account of contours and slopes. Farmers who feel they are being hard done by as a result of the use of this system should seek appeals to ensure their land holdings are accurately measured.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I compliment Deputy Kyne on tabling this very good question. I presume the same thing applies in drumlin areas. The fact that the slope is not continuous probably makes it far more difficult to measure the land area. The Department's systems have become far more accurate. It is able to remove narrow tracks from its calculations. Are there any plans to improve the software system in recognition of the problem that has been raised by Deputy Kyne?

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney We are changing our software systems all the time. We have practically designed a new system.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I know.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It is working, by the way.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten We are receiving the brunt of it in our offices.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney That may be so, but it is because we are in the middle of a correction period. Other countries in the EU that are far bigger than Ireland are unable to do what we are doing. Since the middle of the summer, we have reassessed practically every one of the hundreds of thousands of land parcels in this country. I regard the judgment that has been made of the amount of land that is potentially ineligible as pretty accurate. We have put systems in place to allow farmers to submit appeals if they feel the measurements are inaccurate. I would say the accuracy of our system is pretty good, by and large. The current reform process, which essentially involves a correction of the inaccuracies of the last system, is difficult for farmers who are seeing some of their lands deemed ineligible. By the time the process has been fully corrected, within the next six months or so, Ireland will be one of a few countries in the EU to have done that. Significant disallowances and fines, which would be multiples of the value of the correction figure we are now going to deliver, will be avoided as a result.

Departmental Publications

 10. 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 amount of staff time and the estimated cost, including staff time, associated with the production of ministerial newsletters since he became Minister; the grounds on which he believes this expenditure of taxpayers’ money is justified; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [53072/13]

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív They say that time is money. No doubt it takes time to prepare the newsletters issued by the Department. This is taxpayers' money. I ask the Minister not to tell me it is impossible to quantify the precise cost of this exercise because the officials involved are also doing other related work. The Minister will appreciate that the private sector is able to value things like this every day of the week.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney While this is a valid question, I think it is a strange one. The Department issues newsletters on a reasonably regular basis to update farmers who want to get that information. They are sent out in as cost-effective a way as possible. This is essentially an online service.


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