Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 27 September 2023

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Development of the Sheep Sector: Discussion (Resumed)

Photo of Paul DalyPaul Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome Mr. Christal and Mr. O'Flynn witnesses and thank them for their presentation. I want to go back on the sheep milk side of things, which Deputy Flaherty touched on. Being honest, that is probably why the witnesses are here this evening. Sheep milk came up when the Crosse brothers from Cashel attended this committee and discussed their innovative idea of sheep milk. As well as the production of the milk, there is the processing. The production of the milk would be straightforward enough but there is also the processing of cheeses or whatever. With that in mind I know they have had communication with Enterprise Ireland. I do not want the witnesses to say anything that would be a breach of whatever communications they would have had with them. Using the Crosse brothers as an example, I think it was a potential lifeline for the sheep sector, if what they talked about could take off. Enterprise Ireland spoke about criteria such as ten plus employees and €1 million in sales. It is a little bit like, "Live horse and you will get grass", or maybe "Live sheep and you will get grass". The Crosse brothers may have that potential but how to they prove it to Enterprise Ireland? I know there are the local enterprise offices, LEOs, etc., they would probably go to first to get them to that level, but they are talking about a national idea that is probably - they will not like to hear me say this - aspirational, but very achievable and deliverable and would be a lifeline for the sector.

How does Enterprise Ireland help the Crosse brothers in their infancy? What is Enterprise Ireland's role within Government or within the Department? For the purposes of conversation and to get a better angle and picture of how the thing works, if the Department with responsibility for agriculture decided that it will be national policy to drive the sheep milk sector because it is working in New Zealand and some other places - and there is a whole web that can be tied into this with solar panels and sheep being ideal grazing along with them - what is the role of Enterprise Ireland in getting the nuts and bolts of that industry off the ground? Does it have to be an entrepreneur who makes an application or can it be the Minister or the Ministers? I know the witnesses are not agricultural but if it was the agricultural policy surely the two Ministers would communicate or bang heads together. Does Enterprise Ireland have a role from that side where it can come from the top down, rather than me or the Crosse brothers, as entrepreneurs, making an application? Can the Government tell Enterprise Ireland, "Look, this is our policy. Get out there. What can you do to develop this policy?".