Ministerial Speeches 2018

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Bord Bia Irish Food and Drink Trade Reception,

The Embassy of Ireland, Paris, 13thDecember 2018

Good evening, Madam Ambassador, Ladies and Gentlemen.  Mesdames et Messieurs, Bonsoir.  Vous êtes les Bienvenus.  Dia dhaoibh a cháirde go léir! 

It’s an honour and a pleasure to be here with you in the beautiful surroundings of the Embassy of Ireland here in Paris at this the 14th annual Bord Bia Irish Food and Drink Trade Reception. The bonds that unite France and Ireland transcend modern day politics and trade. They are historical and cultural. We are friends and allies on many issues of importance, not least our passion for the production of quality foods. This evening is an opportunity to consolidate and strengthen the links between Irish food and drink exporters and our French customers in retail, foodservice and distribution.

The agri-food sector is of critical importance to the Irish economy, not just for the food produced or the economic returns received, but also because of the socio-economic development it brings to our rural areas and the public good it delivers. The sector employed approximately 174,000 people (7.9% of total employment) in 2017.  Ireland is now recognised as a county which produces food and drink that is world class, high quality, distinctive and made by a diverse range of creative producers from a unique island location, where local producers meet high global standards in producing sustainable food. Irish food and drink is currently enjoyed in 180 markets around the world and exports have increased to a total of €12.6 billion in 2017, over 60% since 2010, a recordeighth consecutive year of export growth.

Ireland is an open and outward-looking economy that is at the heart of Europe. Our future is within the EU and it is vital that we continue to develop our links with friends and neighbours in Europe. Irish companies that have succeeded in prestigious markets such as here in France have done so by respecting your consumer demands for high quality produce, high levels of food safety, full and complete traceability, competitive price positioning, and focussing on innovation and ensuring that we can competing with the best. 

France is Ireland’s fifth largest market for food and drinks exports, valued at €821m last year. This is an excellent performance and testifies to the importance of customer loyalty in mature markets such as France.Sectors with the strongest growth were dairy, seafood and prepared food.

You, our French customers remain Ireland’s largest export market for lamb and seafood, as well as the 2nd largest market globally and  4thfor Irish Whiskey .On behalf of the Irish Government, I want to assure you all that your loyalty and custom to Irish produce is valued enormously and we hope that it will continue to deepen and grow. 

I hope that the 3rdmarket insights seminar earlier today has provided essential insights for our exporters to keep them up to speed on developments on the French market and further deepen our connections and to ensure we keep our products in tune with changing consumer preferences in France.  

Growing consumer interest in environmentally friendly and ethically sourced products has become a key trend that retailers cannot ignore. Ouragri- food sector in Ireland, is well placed to respond to this sustainability agenda through Origin Green, our national sustainability programme, which now covers over 90% of our food and drink exports.

The strong food culture in France means that the French consumer is highly appreciative of the Irish approach to   producing quality food, sustainability. In this regard, in 2018, some key highlights of sustainable promotion of Irish food in France including a new Chefs’ Irish Beef Club member, a strong Irish participation at the international Salon du Fromage (where Irish cheese was among the prize winners), the Mondial de la Bierre (where Ireland was the country of honour), and the recent SIAL in October (which I will comment on further later) in Paris as well as a number of other activities relating to the development of the Origin Green Programme in the French market.

At the SIAL international food trade event, I was proud to assist Bord Bia in promoting Irish food business at the largest business to business trade event on the world this year. The record number of 32 Irish exhibitors, up from 26 at the last SIAL event in 2016,and  across a wide range of products, reflects the growing confidence in Irish food producers in targeting international markets, for which great credit should be given to the professionalism of Bord Bia in this regard. 

Brexit is obviously uppermost in all our thoughts, and undoubtedly the biggest trade-related challenge facing the food industries in Ireland the UK and indeed France. I will not dwell on it in detail tonight, but I must express the hope of the Government of Ireland for an outcome that ensures the avoidance of a Hard Border on the island of Ireland, and which provides for smooth and efficient trade flows between our countries. I strongly believe that this would be in the best interests of all of us.

To finish on a more lighter, sporting note, although one which we all take seriously, I would like to congratulate the French football team on a marvelous victory over Croatia in the World Cup in July. In Ireland we had our own  sporting highlight in rugby , (one that fans of “les Bleus” might not wish to recall ) when Johnny Sexton dropkicked victory from the jaws of defeat after forty one phases of play in the Stade De France last February, going on from there to win the Grand Slam. A great game between two great rugby nations .We look forward to meeting you in Dublin next March. 

 I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ambassador O’Brienand her Embassy team, including Jerome Mounsey as well as the Bord Bia team under the directorship of Tara McCarthy, and local manager here Finnian O’Luasa, for all their passionate and practical commitment to building Irish – French relationships at all levels.  My thanks and appreciation to you and your teams for all your  work in organising this evening’s receptionand for all you do, day in day out, throughout the year to advance  Irish interests.  

Finally, allow me to thank you, our guests, for your company this evening. We welcome you, not only as esteemed guests and important customers, but also as valued friends with whom we look forward to sharing the Irish tradition of hospitality. 

Joyeux Noel, Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year to you all. 

Ends.a

Launch of series of COFORD publications

  • Good afternoon and welcome to the launch of this series of COFORD reports. I am pleased to be receiving these reports from COFORD in their role as an advisory body to me and my Deportment. Their advice and input on policy is very much appreciated. 
  • Firstly, I would like to commend COFORD on these publications which clearly demonstrate that good work can be achieved by stakeholders actively engaging with the shared goal of developing a sustainable forest sector. These reports demonstrate the importance of stakeholder collaboration and the COFORD Council provides an ideal platform to discuss a range of issues and provide advice to my Department on matters related to forestry.
  • I had the opportunity to meet each of the chairs of the COFORD Working Groups in Agriculture House in advance of this launch today. The current outgoing COFORD Council took on the task of looking at a range of thematic areas and report on key messages and recommendations. I am pleased to say that they have delivered on this task and I look forward to examining each of the reports that will be presented to you shortly.   
  • The 6 reports that I am launching today are; 
  • Forests, products and people – Ireland’s forest policy 2014

A Report on Policy Implementation with Recommendations 

  • The Forest Land Availability Implementation Group  Report 
  • Wood Supply and Demand on the Island of Ireland to 2025
  • Mobilising Irelands Forest Resource- Meeting the Challenges
  • Longer Term Forest Research

and

  • Species Mixtures in Irish Forests – A Review
  • The progress report on the implementation of Ireland’s forest policy outlines that significant progress has been achieved in a number of policy areas. However I am conscious that more needs to be done and I will continue to look at areas identified where more progress is required. 
  • The recommendations made in the Forest Land Availability Implementation Group report examine a number of key areas such as promotion, education and environment and proposes a number of specific study areas. I am acutely aware that afforestation levels need to increase and I will continue to work with all stakeholders to explore opportunities to expand our forest estate.
  • The reports Wood supply and demand on the island of Ireland to 2025and Mobilising Ireland’s Forest Resource Meeting the challengesprovide key messages for forestry stakeholders. The forecast increase in timber supply will create many challenges but will also provide numerous opportunities.  
  • The capacity of Ireland’s long term forest research is also examined and proposed new structures are recommended. I am aware of the need to continue to build research capacity to ensure that our forest sector continues to develop sustainably.  
  •  The report on mixtures examines in some detail the extent and challenges faced by foresters and growers. Mixtures play an important contribution in landscape design and help build resilience against disease and improve growth. However their management can be challenging and this report provides a number of key recommendations to fill those knowledge gaps.      
  • Finally before I conclude I would like to this opportunity to particularly thank the outgoing Chairman Michael Lynn for his dedication and stewardship over the last 11 years.  His drive and commitment is clearly evident in the legacy of publications that have been produced during his stewardship. Michael’s professionalism and ability to get others to work collectively has ensured that each of the Councils he has chaired has delivered on its key objectives to provide advice and to advance the development of the forest sector. Michael, many thanks for all your hard work and I wish you every success in the future.     
  • I would also like to take this opportunity to state that I will appoint another new Council which will run from 2019 to 2021. I am delighted to announce today that the new chair of the next COFORD Council will be Dr Eugene Hendrick. Eugene has had a long association with COFORD over many years. Although he has retired from the Department last year I am glad to say that he will continue to contribute to forestry as he guides the next Council in its work over the next three years in his capacity as Chairman.   
  • Thank you for your attendance here today and I now formally launch these series of COFORD reports.
  • I will now hand you back to Michael Lynn 

End

Speech by Mr. Andrew Doyle, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine at the Annual General Meeting of the Irish Grain Growers Group, Athy, 27thNovember 2018

Introduction

Chairman, members of the Irish Grain Growers Group, I am delighted to have this opportunity to attend the Group’s Annual General Meeting. This gives me the opportunity to meet with members of your group and exchange views on an important sector of agriculture that makes a significant contribution to the Agri-food industry and the economy as a whole.

Cereals

It is important to highlight that the tillage sector in Ireland is an integral component of the Agri-food industry, making a significant contribution to overall agricultural output. Crop production as a whole including Horticulture, contributes in the region of €700 million annually to agricultural output at farm gate prices.

In particular, it is acknowledged that the cereals sector is a major contributor to livestock production providing high quality grain to the animal feeding industry. Approximately 80% of indigenous production goes to animal feed. Cereal growers also make a significant contribution to the food and drinks sectors in the form of malting barley, milling wheat and oats for the breakfast cereals industry. In addition over 40,000 tonnes of seed is produced annually, mainly to service the Irish tillage sector, but also to provide for a growing export market. 

Cereals use in the food and drink sector

While the majority of cereal crop production has traditionally been based in the provision of feedstuffs to the livestock sector, end uses are changing with an increasing demand for grain by the food and drinks industries such as malting, milling, breakfast cereal and distilling.  

While not the answer to all of the challenges facing the tillage sector the development of niche and specialist markets have the potential to improve our competitiveness and sustainability credentials. The demand for Irish malting barley is growing in line with the sustained growth in demand for Irish whiskey. Current demand for malting barley in Ireland is in the region of 200,000 tonnes, of which 180,000 tonnes is met by contracted malting barley. Within the malting sector, another specialist niche currently being promoted by my Department is the use of heritage Irish bred barley varieties as a unique selling point for individual companies in the ever expanding craft brewery and distillery industries. There is significant interest among craft brewers in sourcing malt produced from heritage malting barley varieties. 

Production/Weather

I must acknowledge that cereal production has experienced difficult challenges in recent times in terms of weather conditions. In relation to cereal markets, Ireland only accounts for approximately 1% of EU production with grain prices here are very much affected by European and world market price shifts linked to supply/demand. The cereal sector has experienced, as a result of the drought in Europe, a spike in prices and a drop in the harvest forecast for the 28 Member States including Ireland. 

Spring 2018 and Harvest

The weather difficulties in the autumn of 2017 which carried through into the spring of 2018 placed further pressures on the tillage sector resulting in delayed plantings. The subsequent drought led to a shortened growing season. The 2018 harvest proved to be very challenging for all cereal growers including those growing malting barley with significant yield reductions (up to 30% on average) resulting in one of the lowest yielding harvest for many years. However we were not alone in Europe as the EU production forecasts for 2018 indicate a reduction of 7.5% (23m tonnes) from the previous year. 

Crop Diversification “3 Crop Rule”

In an effort to support the sector the Department sought from the European Commission a derogation from the Crop Diversification “3 Crop Rule” requirement as part of Greening for 2018.

Fodder Production Incentive Measure for Tillage Farmers

The €2.75million Fodder production incentive for Tillage farmers introduced in August 2018 to encourage growers to actively engage in the fodder market has greatly alleviated the national fodder deficit and helped the livestock sector while providing a valuable break crop for growers. 

Protein Aid Scheme

My Department was pleased to announce earlier this year that the Protein Aid Scheme would continue in 2018 and it is envisaged that it will be available again in 2019.

Department Supports for the Tillage Sector

A range of supports have been provided to assist this vital sector including:

  • The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening whereby my Department is responsible for paying out in the region of €150 million annually to tillage farmers 
  • The extension in 2017 of the Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme to specifically include the tillage and horticulture sectors 
  • As a further support to tillage farmers the Tillage Capital Investment Scheme under TAMS II covers specific areas of investment including Minimum Disturbance Tillage Equipment, Sprayers, Fertiliser Spreaders and increasing Grain Storage and Drying capacity. A total of €6.36m has been spent to date   
  • In addition to TAMS, the GLAS tiered entry system prioritised tillage farmers who chose the “minimum tillage” or “catch crop establishment” environmental actions
  • In order to assist tillage farmers, and in particular specialist malting barley growers, the Department granted an exemption from the Basic Payment Scheme “three crop rule” to farmers that entered GLAS and committed to establish a catch crop on all of their tillage area.

I would now like to turn to two areas which present major challenges – CAP Reform and Brexit.   

CAP Reform 

Ireland’s agriculture sector finds itself once again in the midst of a reform of CAP.  This reform comes against the backdrop of  Brexit and newer European priorities such as security, defence and migration.  

The CAP Post 2020 proposals involve significant changes in relation to governance, the distribution of direct payments among farmers, and the increasing environmental conditionality attaching to such payments. 

Greater subsidiarity is being given to Member States, enabling them to design measures that are best suited to their local environment and we support this move.  

We welcome the Commission’s proposals and have indicated our willingness to work with the new delivery model.  We can support the move to a more strategic, performance based approach.  It allows us all to focus clearly on what we expect from agriculture and to think about the multifunctional role it plays. 

The retention of a strong CAP budget is the key issue for Ireland and to this end Minister Creed has been working hard with his European counterparts. Recently, six Member States, including Ireland, signed a Joint Memorandum seeking to retain the CAP budget at current levels for the EU 27 for the 2021 – 2027 period. Up to 20 Member States have joined this alliance and work will continue in an effort to build consensus on this point.

Brexit 

There is no doubt that the biggest trade-related challenge comes in the form of Brexit. We welcome the fact that agreement has been reached on the draft text of the Withdrawal Agreement which will now be placed before the UK Parliament for approval. 

The avoidance of a hard border on the island of Ireland holds out the prospect of avoiding any regulatory or other barriers to North-South trade and this is particularly important for the agri-food sector. The other very positive dimension to a Withdrawal Agreement being in place is that a transition period would be secured. 

Preparedness planning for Brexit is continuing in line with recent Government Decisions.  Officials in my Department have been working closely with other Departments and agencies on preparations for the implementation of import controls at both ports and airports on an East-West basis, following the transition period.

Contingency planning for a disorderly Brexit in the event of the UK exiting on March 30th2019 is also continuing in order to ensure that the Department and agencies are prepared to fulfil their legal obligations as efficiently as possible when the UK exits the EU, while also facilitating trade.

Risk Management – Farm Insurance and Safety

All farmers understand that farming by its nature carries risks. I am strongly committed to supporting farmers in managing as much risk as possible. I believe there is scope to improve the functioning of the EU crisis reserve fund including the potential to retain a portion of unspent funds at Member State level for dealing with weather related events. In addition, we will consider selecting risk management tools such as using mutual funds, insurance schemes and income stability tools to mitigate the effects of severe weather events. Given the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, we must now give strong consideration to implementing these risk management measures in Ireland.

Statistics show that accidents on farms cause more workplace deaths than all other occupations combined.  Between 2008 and 2017, there were 211 fatal farm accidents. So far this year, tragically, there have been 17 fatal farm accidents. Injuries and fatalities are caused in a number of ways but the two highest areas of accidents continue to relate to tractors & machinery and livestock. So far this year these two areas account for over 80% of all fatal farm accidents, while vehicles and machinery alone account for over 50% of all fatal farm accidents. We must all do what we can to change these shocking statistics. 

This is an area that requires constant attention and we must all work together with the single goal of preventing accidents and therefore saving lives and minimising serious injuries.  

Crop Chemicals

I am acutely aware of the issues that are currently faced by the tillage sector in relation to the continued availability of Crop chemicals or what we refer to as plant protection products. I was present at the Septoria conference in March 2017 and we all heard of the emerging problems around pathogen resistance and sensitivity.  I am aware that one of the more important chemicals for managing resistance issues in cereals, “CHLOROTHALONIL”, is the subject of much speculation, and as the approval process is still on-going, there is little I can say at this time except that I understand how pivotal this chemical is to cereal production and that I will ensure that any regulatory decision is science based.  

The challenge facing us is to ensure that the regulatory system is capable of providing farmers with access to the range of plant protection products they need while ensuring the highest levels of protection for human and environmental health.

Conclusion

I hope I have been able to address some of your Group’s issues and concerns in the course of my address. These are challenging times in the Agricultural Sector and I would like to reiterate my Department’s and the Government’s ongoing commitment to the support of the Sector as we move forward. The challenges will be uppermost in my Department’s focus as we go through the CAP negotiations and I can assure you that Minister Creed and I will continue to work to develop a broad consensus on the value of a strong, fit for purpose agriculture sector. 

Launch of Sustainable Uplands Agri-environment Scheme (SUAS), Brockagh Glendalough Hotel, Co Wicklow.

19 November 2018

I would like to thank the Wicklow Uplands Council for the invitation to launch SUAS tonight.

SUAS was one of 12 successful proposals to be funded under the European Innovation Partnerships Initiative (EIP).  Projects developed under this open call are developed by Operational Groups and funded under Ireland’s Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020.  

These exciting projects will deliver solutions to challenges facing the Irish agri-food sector and the rural economy. They align well with our RDP and national priorities particularly on environmental sustainability. The exciting range of projects selected will address challenges such as biodiversity, profitability and sustainability, and will harness the creativity and resourcefulness which is the hallmark of Ireland’s rural sector. 

The key elements of EIP include the identification of challenges in the sector and the development of innovative solutions by people who are already involved in the sector.  They fund co-operation between different stakeholders including farmers, researchers, advisors and businesses. 

SUAS has been run for the past number of years by Wicklow Uplands Council, working closely with hill farmers, the Irish Uplands Forum, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Teagasc.  

The aim of scheme is to address the complex agricultural, environmental and socio-economic challenges associated with the land management of the Wicklow/Dublin uplands.

I remember this project was originally presented at the Wicklow Uplands AGM in 2013 in the presence of former Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney who acknowledged at that time the merits and value of developing a comprehensive upland environment and vegetation management plan. 

The funding recognises the plan in a real and tangible way.  I look forward to seeing the continued benefits of the project in the Wicklow Uplands.  SUAS benefits the entire community in the Wicklow Mountains, from our local communities and land owners to the thousands of visitors who visit Wicklow to enjoy our unique landscape and ecosystem. 

I congratulate the Wicklow Uplands Council on securing the funding for SUAS.  This was an exceptionally competitive process and all projects went through a rigours assessment process to identify the best schemes. SUAS offers great potential to help us to build on the success of the agri-food sector in recent years, and to address some of the remaining challenges with fresh approaches.

Thank you

ENDS

Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef 

11 October 2018

  • I am pleased to be speaking to you this evening on sustainable beef production and would like to thank the Roundtable organisers for extending the invitation.
  • It is imperative that our Agriculture sector develops in a sustainable manner and sustainability is the foundation of our agri-development strategy across all enterprise types, particularly beef and dairy.

Beef Data and Genomics Programme

  • In relation to the beef sector, one of the main tools we use to support sustainable development is the Beef Data and Genomics Programme.
  • The Beef Data and Genomics Programme uses data collection, genetics and genoptying to work towards breeding more resource efficient cattle, thereby lowering the intensity of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The carbon navigator provides farmers with the carbon footprint of their produce, and this information helps them to identify ways to reduce that footprint. 
  • The measures within the BDGP are specifically targeted at addressing how best Ireland’s beef sector can contribute to climate change mitigation. 
  • It is essential that such interventions be targeted and under-pinned by scientific research.  At the same time, we will need to monitor outcomes to ensure they have real impact.

Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot

  • Last Tuesday, Minister Creed announced the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot as part of the Department’s budget for 2019.  This is a new pilot scheme targeted at Suckler farmers, and  aimed at further improving the economic and carbon efficiency of Irish beef production.
  • The information provided to farmers from all of these schemes will enable them to make informed decisions about their businesses with a view to increasing economic and environmental efficiency.


Origin Green

  • Bord Bia established the Origin Green Programme on behalf of the Department in 2012. 
  • Origin Green gives us objectively verifiable evidence to back up our positive reputation of being producers of quality sustainable food.
  • Almost 50,000 beef farmers in Ireland are members of the Origin Green Programme, through the Sustainable Beef & Lamb Assurance Scheme.  
  • These farms produce over 90% of all Irish beef and, in being members of the programme, are committed to producing beef in a sustainable manner.  Farmers are subject to audit every 18 months and the sustainability data collected includes measurements to calculate the carbon footprint of each farm, water use and biodiversity measures. 
  • Beef is the largest of the sectors within the Origin Green Programme.  The experience gained from the first 6 years of the Programme can be of major benefit in an international context. Ireland is happy to share these experiences to assist in improving the sustainability of beef production globally. 

Common Agricultural Policy

  • Sustainability is an important feature of the CAP and the next iteration of CAP will focus even more sharply on sustainability from both an economic and environmental perspective. Ireland is very supportive of this policy direction.
  • Reform of CAP post 2020 is about supporting the sustainable growth of food produced within the EU.  It’s about encouraging generational renewal and attracting young people into a sector that is becoming more technologically and scientifically advanced. 
  • In particular, it is about increasing the environmental ambition of the CAP. The CAP post 2020 will place a greater focus on contributing to climate change mitigation, through encouraging more sustainable farming.
  • The future for beef production is challenging, so collaboration within the industry between processors and producers is critical, as is co-operation at a global level between buyers and suppliers. We must all continue to work together to meet these challenges.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of our evening.   A

THE BORD BIA NATIONAL ORGANIC AWARDS

IN THE BORD BIA FOOD CENTRE, MOUNT STREET

ON THURSDAY 10 OCTOBER 2018

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen.  I am delighted to be here today to present the National Organic Awards.  I want to thank Ms Tara McCarthy, Chief Executive of Bord Bia, for extending this kind invitation to me to present the awards and to speak to you today.  The National Organic Food Awards, hosted by Bord Bia in conjunction with my Department is an important biannual event and presents an opportunity to showcase the best of Irish organic produce.

The objective of these awards is to recognise the achievements and raise the profile of Irish organic food and drink manufacturers.  I am informed that over  200 entries were submitted this year and that the quality of the products was very high. To my mind therefore everyone who submitted an entry is a winner.   A new ‘Business in the Community’ award this year highlights the sustainability achievements and contributions of organic producers to their local communities.  This fits in very well with the whole organic ethos of sustainability through the delivery of high-quality, safe and naturally based produce. The quality of these and all the entries you submitted is a testament to your hard work and commitment.  Today is a celebration of your achievements as Irish organic food and drink manufacturers. 

I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate Bord Bia on the work they continue to do within the organic sector to help develop it into the future.   In addition to the National Organic Awards, Bord Bia  organise organic marketing research across Europe. Last year Bord Bia organised an organic horticulture market study visit to the UK which was extremely important in view of impending Brexit and our preparedness for this.  Events such as these are very important in gaining first-hand experience of best practices in the sector and to acquire a greater understanding of markets across Europe. We are very fortunate to have such a highly regarded body of experts to assist in the development of the Sector.  I commend Bord Bia for the time, effort and commitment they put in to events such as today.

Having met with stakeholders at home and at Biofach earlier this year, I fully believe that opportunites exist for Irish produce both at home and abroad.  The quality of Irish organic produce on display submitted for this awards competition, clearly shows that Irish organic food has the high quality and standard required to compete on the world stage. 

My Department is committed to supporting the Organic sector in Ireland.  In this regard the Organic Farming Scheme  and the Organic Capital Investment Scheme under TAMS have proved invaluable to farmers to support their conversion to organic farming and to assist in the upgrading of their holdings.  The Scheme of grant aid for the processing industry is another support which is available to organic processors.  This scheme is designed to improve production, handling and preparation of organic produce and to facilitate the adoption and application of new technologies. 

Earlier this year I established an Organic Sector Strategy Group tasked with developing a strategy for the development of the Organic Sector for the period up to 2025. The group will also review the implementation of the 2013-2015 Organic Action Plan, and in particular identify what worked well and what did not.  Another element of the group’s work is to carry out an assesment of the case for a targeted reopening of the Organic Farming Scheme, looking to best economic and environmental outcomes. I expect to have the Group’s recommendations before the end of this year.  I will then be in a position to make a decision of the best way forward taking into account sectoral and cross sectoral recommendations, market developments, training and education, public awareness and wider EU policy.

Before I present the awards, I would like to thank the judging panel for the excellent work they have done in choosing the winners.  In light of the high standard of the entries submitted, it was no easy task. Their expertise is an invaluable element of the selection process.

Without further delay I will now hand you over to Bord Bia Chief Executive, Tara McCarthy.

ENDS

THE OPENING OFSHEEP 2018 FARM TO FORK, TEAGASC ATHENRY, 

SAT 7thJULY 2018.

  • A Chairde, Ladies and Gentlemen.

About Sheep 2018 Farm to Fork

  • I am delighted to be here at the National Sheep Research centre in Athenry to open Sheep 2018 Farm to Fork, the major sheep Industry event of the year. 
  • Today promises to be the highlight of the year for sheep farmers and all other stakeholders in the sector in terms of being able to interact, and acquire knowledge in all areas of sheep production which will help drive the future profitability of the sector. 
  • Sheep production is synonymous with this region in particular, so it is great to see a superbly organized event taking place here in the heart of the West.It is the largest sheep event to be held in Ireland this year with over fifteen thousand people expected throughout the day.
  • Both Teagasc, and the research centre here have a long and proud association with the Sheep Industry.  Valuable research has been done here over many years that that has benefited the sector, and I would like to commend the head of centre Prof. Michael Diskin for the clear commitment he has shown to sheep producers.
  • The original six partners of the event – Bord Bia, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Irish Farmers Journal, Sheep Ireland, Teagasc and University College Dublin – are joined in 2018 by Galway County Council and all have put in huge effort in organizing today’s event.
  • The event is laid out in a ‘village’ setup where visitors have an opportunity to talk with research, advisory and industry specialists and gain an understanding of a wide range of topics through practical workshops and demonstrations. There are in excess of 100 stands here at Sheep2018 Farm to Fork, ranging from commercial exhibits to industry stakeholders. 
  • Themes for each ‘village’ include grassland, breeding and genetics, flock health, nutrition, hill sheep production, agricultural and environmental sustainability, meat industry and markets, health and safety and all aspects of wool production from shearing to end use. 
  • There will also be informative stands on farm partnerships, inheritance, and farm management which will be of interest to many visitors.
  • Of course the event cannot be run without displaying some of the finest sheep in the country, with nine societies holding national or regional championships while there will be more than 16 other sheep breeds exhibiting their animals also. 
  • George Graham, the very well known sheep shearing instructor, will lead demonstrations in machine and hand shearing. The Irish Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers (IGWSD) will demonstrate spinning raw wool after shearing, wool washing, sorting, blending, dyeing and weaving as well as different finishing methods. 
  • As a sheep farmer myself, I know the importance of having a good dog, so its great to see Eamonn Egan back again giving tips on training sheepdog handlers as well as sheepdogs. 
  • I am keen on maximising the tourism potential of sheep farming in hill areas, so its great to see people like Glen Keen Family Farm and Killary Sheep Farm experiences discussing their experiences in providing agri-tourism in this area.
  • This year, to tie in with Galway having been awarded the European Region of Gastronomy designation, there will be a significant emphasis on food. This will be hosted in a specially designated Food Village.A wide range of local artisan food producers are here, and I would encourage all visitors to support these entrepreneurs who are the bedrock of our quality food production systems.

Sheep Welfare Scheme

  • My Department has committed substantial funding to the sheep sector in recent years. A range of key supports are available for the sector including Basic Payment Scheme, Areas of Natural constrain, GLAS Agri Environment scheme and the TAMS investment scheme.
  • The Sheep Welfare Scheme was introduced in December 2016 as part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme, having been agreed with the European Commission. The scheme provided funding of up to €25million for Irish sheep farmers in 2017. I believe the scheme has largely met the agreed targets of improving the health and welfare of the National Flock.
  •  Arising from a lower number of sheep farmers participating in the scheme than anticipated in 2017, a small portion of the money allocated to this Scheme was never spent. A very prudent and indeed necessary decision was taken by my Department to reallocate this money to farmers suffering due to the fodder crises. 

Overview and Market Situation 

  • Sheep production is an important industry worth approximately €300m to the economy.  Improvements in prices have helped contribute to a stabilisation of sheep numbers over the last two years.   A viable National sheep flock is vital to generating valuable export earnings and thus contributing to economic recovery. The value of the Industry to the rural economy cannot be underestimated and I value the sector as one that forms an essential part of a broader knowledge based bio-economy, and one with a strong future.
  • Coming from a strong sheep producing county, I am personally hugely committed to the sector. I believe there is indeed huge potential for the sheep sector, which can be built on if the Industry collectively can build on the many proven methods of improving profitability which will all be on display at the upcoming event.
  • In 2017, Irish agricultural and food exports recorded their 8thconsecutive year of growth and were valued at€13.5 billion. Ireland is now the fourth largest sheepmeat exporter in the world, and the second largest in Europe.
  •   The strong performance of the sector was reflected in theCentral Statistics Office (CSO) recently published 2017 trade and livestock statistics. In 2017 just under 63,000tof Irish sheepmeat worth €311 millionwas exported in comparison to 56,000tworth €277for the previous year. This represents a significant growth in tonnage of 12.5%and networth of 12%.
  •    I am delighted to say that the strong and robust performance has continuedinto 2018. 14,000t of Irish sheepmeat worth just over 94 millionwas exported to the end of April. 
  • Given the strong emphasis Minister Creed has placed on expanding our footprint in international markets it is also encouraging to see that exports to non EU markets for sheepmeat have continued to increase from 2016 to 2017. For example to Hong Kong an increase from €2.6 million, to €6.5 million and for Canada an increase from €1.3 million to €4.0 million.
  •     In terms of growing markets for 2018, both the German and Swedish markets have seen significant expansion so far with 1,287t(30% increase) and 1,113t(16% increase) respectively. The largest third country market is Canada with 157t (33% increase).  
  • In terms of new export markets for sheep meat, I am especially pleased to announce through the combined efforts of staff both in my own Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade the agreement earlier this week of a Veterinary Health Certificate to export beef, sheepmeat and poultry meats to Qatar.
  • Irish agri-food exports to Qatar amounted to €8.8 million in 2017 of which around 70% is accounted for by dairy exports. Meat consumption in Qatar is estimated to be high compared to global averages, and lamb accounts for around one-third ofmeat consumption. I believe this market represents very significant growth potential.
  • Brexit has of course caused uncertainty for all sectors.  My Department is working very hard to secure access to additional third country markets including US and Japan for sheepmeat. 

Domestic Prices 

  • I am pleased to see that the national average price for sheep meat has performed extremely well so far this year with an average year to date price of €526.01/100kgs. This compares very favourably to the yearly average of €487/100kgsfor 2017.

Sheep Farm Income

  • In terms of overall incomes in the sector, I am pleased to say as was reported in the Teagasc National Farm Survey in May, that the average sheep farm income increased by 8% to €16,897during 2017. The income was augmented in no small part through the successful introduction of my Department’s Sheep Welfare Scheme in 2016 and also as a result of increased payments made under the GLAS program.
  • In addition, the sector saw a reduction in overall costs of just over 4%which were attributable mainly to a 7% reduction in concentrate expenditure combined with a 12% declinein fertiliser costs.    

Farm Safety

  • Statistics show that accidents on farms cause more workplace deaths than all other occupations combined.  Between 2008 and 2017, there were 210 fatal farm accidents, this is a shocking statistic. We must all do what we can to change this.  
  • Despite the many risks, farming does not have to be a dangerous occupation. Behavioural change is urgently required to minimise risk and prevent future accidents. I appreciate that this is easier said than done, as farms are both a home and work place, however, it is important that these two roles are separated.  
  • My Department works closely with the HSA and is actively involved in both the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee and the Interdepartmental Farm Safety Taskforce. The Department is investing heavily in safety on farms through the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS II) which have a wide range of elements that can improve the situation on farms, to the inclusion of farm safety in the Knowledge Transfer schemes and we are looking at all options to help improve the situation on farms.
  • We all need to ensure that safety is an integral part of our farming culture and that all people working on our farms take personal responsibility for improving the culture of safety in all tasks performed.  We must all work together with the single goal of preventing accidents and therefore saving lives and minimising serious injuries.  After all, it is us as farmers that will benefit from improvements in safety.

Conclusion

  • My thanks to the overall sponsors Irish County Meats, and also to the other sponsors who are committed to the sheep sector.
  • Again I thank the organising committee for all your efforts, and I wish all involved an informative and enjoyable day.


Beijing-Dublin Mutual Investment Forum

Investment, Cooperation and Win-win

Westbury Hotel

Friday, 11thMay 2018 at 2.00pm

WELCOME

Your Excellency, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to welcome you here today to this forum where you will discuss the advantages and opportunities of continued co-operation between China and Ireland.

GENERAL 

There is no doubt that political relations between both of our countries are excellent. During a visit by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2013, a Strategic Partnership for Mutually Beneficial Cooperation was signed, which committed to deeper links across the breadth of China-Ireland relations. There are further agreements in place in sectors such as agriculture, health, and trade in services, science and technology, as well as in the areas of culture, financial services regulation, mutual recognition of higher education qualifications, and software.  

These links are further reinforced through the ongoing development of close trading relationships. Bilateral trade between Ireland and China is worth over 8 billion each year. Ireland’s priority sectors for trade with China include agriculture, education, financial services, culture, and tourism.

AGRI-FOOD

The strength of these developing relationships is exemplified in an area that I am very familiar with, namely, agri-food. As you may know, the agri food sector is Ireland’s largest indigenous manufacturing industry.  It is fundamental to the development of our rural economy, and to maintaining and supporting the family farm and providing jobs in areas where alternative employment is not always readily available. It is also critically important from a cultural and social perspective. Our industry has developed from subsistence farming not too long ago, to being at the leading edge in terms of technology, efficiency and research.

Our agriculture policy is also focused on keeping young people on the land. This is a significant challenge worldwide, and we have a number of specific policy instruments designed to encourage intergenerational change.   

The cooperative movement, within Ireland, particularly in the dairy sector, has played a critical role. Many of these cooperatives have grown from small farmer cooperatives seeking to improve the price they obtain from the market, to large organisations which have now become part of multinational companies such as Kerry and Glanbia, and in which farmers still have shareholdings. 

This cooperative model in agriculture has been of keen interest to delegations from China who are seeking to develop their farming industry and improve food security, and who wish to maintain farmers on the land and stem the movement of labour towards the cities.  

We have been very happy to share our knowledge with China.  Since signing an agreement between our two countries in the agri-food sector in 2011, my Department has welcomed officials from China who have worked with Irish officials.   36 Chinese officials have benefitted from this knowledge exchange programme to date.  I was glad to learn that a number of those who participated in the programme in the past have moved into more senior positions in their Ministries.  This has assisted in understanding our production, safety and processing systems and to also undertake research with our institutions.   

This type of cooperation has been invaluable in developing relationships and in fostering a mutual understanding of the culture of both countries. It has also played a major role in the recent opening of the Chinese market for Irish beef exports, which we here in Ireland hope will lead to many more opportunities for co-operation. We will of course continue to foster close partnerships at both political and technical levels, and to further develop areas of mutual cooperation in order to advance and facilitate market opportunities in China.   

Indeed, my colleague, Minister Michael Creed, is very much looking forward to leading a Trade Mission to China next week with this very objective in mind.  

I would like to thank the Beijing Investment Promotion Bureau and the Dublin Chamber of Commerce for organising today’s Mutual Investment Forum, and I wish all of you every success in your discussions this afternoon. I am sure that they will facilitate further very effective and mutually beneficial co-operation between Irish and Chinese businesses. 

ENDS