Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 2 July 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Animal Health Levies (Pigs) Regulations 2019: Motion
I thank the Chairman and members of the committee. I am here today to seek approval from the committee for the introduction of the Animal Health Levies (Pigs) Regulations 2019. Under section 26(3) of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, draft regulations relating to animal health levies must be approved by a resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas. As such, the Dáil and the Seanad have referred this matter to the committee for consideration.
The draft regulations for which I am seeking approval will introduce a levy at a rate of €0.04 per porcine animal slaughtered or exported live from the State. If approved, I will commence Part 5 of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, which relates to animal health levies. The regulations are proposed to come into operation on 1 September 2019.
The Irish pig industry is the third most important agrifood sector, after the dairy and beef sectors. It accounts for 8% of gross agricultural output. There are approximately 440 commercial pig producers in Ireland producing about 4 million pigs annually. The total number employed in the industry, including those employed on-farm as well as in associated sectors such as pig meat processing, feed manufacture, haulage and services, is estimated at 8,300. In 2018, the value of pig and pigmeat exports amounted to approximately €832 million. After a number of difficult years, recent months have seen a welcome increase in prices to €1.73 per kilo, up from a low of €1.39 per kilo. This is due to reduced European production and increased demand from China due to the outbreaks of African swine fever in that country.
As Ireland seeks to grow its pig and pigmeat exports, the imperative to maintain high standards of pig health also grows. The moneys raised by the levy will directly fund Animal Health Ireland’s activities in these areas. To date, Animal Health Ireland, AHI, has made an important contribution to cattle farming in Ireland. Government funding for AHI is provided on the basis of strict matching funding with private sector contributions. In July 2017, I pledged €125,000 per annum for three years in order to allow AHI commence work in the pig sector on the strict understanding that the pig industry would contribute a similar amount.
A key recommendation of the 2016 report of the pig industry stakeholder group is the expansion of the AHI model to the pig sector. The chair of the pig industry stakeholder group, Dr. Seán Brady, strongly supported the initiative and in October 2017, agreement was reached for the imposition of a levy on pigs presented for slaughter or export in order to raise the industry’s €125,000 contribution. In February 2019, the pigs committee of the Irish Farmers Association, IFA, unanimously endorsed the introduction of such a levy.
Following agreement on funding, the AHI undertook a competitive recruitment process for a pig health expert. An experienced person has been appointed pig health check programme manager. They will take up their position with AHI at the beginning of September 2019.
I strongly believe the introduction of this levy is in the interests of the Irish pig sector. Outbreaks of disease in Europe and further afield have highlighted the requirement for high standards of pig health. It is a small but important contribution as we seek to exploit the opportunities arising out of the challenges facing pig health elsewhere around the globe. I very much welcome the support of the industry and the IFA for this levy. It is recognition of the need for a partnership approach between Government and the private sector towards matters of pig health, and the safeguarding of this important agrifood sector.