Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Outbreaks of Covid-19 in Meat Processing Plants: Statements

 

10:25 pm

Photo of Jackie CahillJackie Cahill (Tipperary, Fianna Fail)

Stringent new measures need to be introduced by the Departments of Health, Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and Business, Enterprise and Innovation to reduce transmissions of Covid-19 in meat factories and to protect employees. The rapid increase in transmission of Covid-19 in meat factories is a very serious concern. It is a concern to the health of employees and to the wider agrifood sector, of which meat processing plays a key role. Maintaining the food supply chain is essential, but so too is the health of employees in meat processing plants. They play an integral role in facilitating this chain.

According to the latest figures from NPHET, the number of positive cases in meat plants has increased by more than 300 to 828. Four of those major meat processing plants are in my constituency: ABP Meats in Cahir and Nenagh; Ashbourne Meat Processors in Roscrea; and Rosderra Meats in Roscrea. Could we have figures for the number of cases in those individual plants?

I have further queries for the Minister, Deputy Creed, which fall under the remit of his Department, one of which concerns a boatload of cattle destined for Algeria this week. There is huge dismay among the farming community that this boat has now gone to France to be filled with cattle. It was delayed a week previously and now it has been cancelled. This is the only forum in which we have the opportunity to ask these questions. We need a full report as to how this boat was not filled with Irish cattle at a time when we need competition in the marketplace like never before. This was the first time in a long number of years where heavy cattle had an outlet live from this country. It is a huge disappointment to livestock producers that this boat has now left our shores.

I shall now turn to how Covid-19 affects the greyhound industry.

The greyhound industry is very disappointed that the date for the resumption of dog racing has not been brought forward like that of horse racing. We welcome the fact that horse racing is to resume behind closed doors on 8 June, but managers of dog tracks throughout the country assure me they can adhere to social distancing. They cannot understand why at this juncture they have been divorced from the horse racing industry. I ask that the decision be reviewed and that dog racing resume on the same date as horse racing.

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