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Written Answers - Pigmeat Sector

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 755 No. 1

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 25.  Deputy Kevin Humphreys Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys  asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  his plans to seek the introduction of a quality assurance scheme for free range pork produced here; if he has considered or performed any studies on the potential market for free range and organic pork products here and abroad; his views that it is a potential growth industry for Irish food producers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7061/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Given that EU marketing standards legislation does not include pigmeat it is not possible to classify pigmeat production as being free-range or organic in the same way as poultry and egg production are categorised.

Furthermore, as free-range pig production is not defined in legislation there are no objective criteria by which my Department can accurately measure the numbers involved.

The Bord Bia Quality Mark was introduced in 1989 with the pigmeat sector in response to consumer demand for information on where their food comes from and how it has been produced. Bord Bia regularly reviews and updates their Quality Assurance schemes with the most recent for pigmeat being in 2006 when the Pig Quality Assurance Standard for producers and processors was published.

Notwithstanding the difficulties in classifying pig production systems as free-range, Bord Bia are considering a proposal to add free-range or outdoor production to the Pig Quality Assurance Scheme (PQAS). This follows some interest being expressed by a small number of outdoor pig producers in joining the scheme. The Bord Bia Pig Technical Advisory Committee, which includes a member of the Free Range Pig Breeders Assoc, is currently working on agreeing a definition of free-range/outdoor production for inclusion in the PQAS.

The Development Strategy for the Irish Pig Industry, prepared by Teagasc in 2008 acknowledged the small scale nature of both free range and outdoor pig production. This report also highlighted the difficulties particularly with regard to sourcing organic feed ingredients, management and animal health issues, together with problems achieving expected premium prices. These factors, together with a number of other issues highlighted, would appear to militate against any significant expansion in either of these production methods.

On the question of organic production generally, my Department works closely with the organic control bodies and is managing the Organic Farming Action Plan 2008-2012. This plan has four main objectives, namely to increase production in line with market trends, increase the knowledge base, develop the organic market at home and abroad, and encourage the development of public procurement opportunities for organic products. During 2011, ten priority actions were identified and extracted from the original plan. The lead responsibilities in relation to the various actions were largely divided between Teagasc, Bord Bia and the Department.

The Government’s recognition of the potential of the Organic Sector is reflected in the Food Harvest 2020 Report, which maps out policy for the next ten years. Within this report, the most compelling picture that emerges of the decade ahead is one of opportunity. This report high[109]lights the opportunity for the Irish agrifood industry to grow and prosper sustainably through the delivery of high-quality, safe and naturally based produce.

To achieve growth, the key strategy of the Food Harvest 2020 Report involves prioritisation of environmental protection, capitalising on our natural advantages and resources, conserving biodiversity and aligning sustainability across the food chain. The Irish organic sector is a forerunner in this regard and is therefore in a prime position to achieve further growth in the years ahead.

There are export opportunities, particularly in the area of beef and lamb, with demand especially strong in Germany and the United Kingdom. However, in respect of horticulture, difficulties remain in supplying even the home market, particularly in crops such as potatoes. At present some 70% of organic fruit and vegetables are imported. There is considerable potential for expansion of the sector in many areas. Pigmeat however, remains problematic with less opportunity for expansion in either organic or free range production.

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