Dáil debates

Thursday, 22 November 2007

3:00 pm

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Question 11: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the investment aid paid to mushroom growers under the scheme of investment aid for the development of commercial horticulture since the scheme started, with a breakdown by county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30078/07]

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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Under the National Development Plan 2000-06, my Department operated a grant aid scheme for the development of commercial horticulture including the mushroom sector. Over the period 2000-06 a total of €5.01 million was paid to 190 mushroom growers. The following schedule shows the breakdown per county to mushroom growers for the period of the National Development Plan 2000-06.

CountyNo of ApplicantsTotal Grant Aid Paid
Carlow5134,853
Cavan451,019,515
Clare116,399
Cork19,939
Donegal13198,212
Dublin368,969
Galway423,338
Kildare9163,832
Kilkenny17,535
Laois15,777
Leitrim367,089
Longford226,665
Louth19,999
Mayo15733,683
Meath4252,663
Monaghan341,251,240
Offaly28,399
Roscommon2134,854
Sligo111,852
Tipperary23557,644
Waterford154,407
Westmeath978,676
Wexford762,154
Wicklow3112,721
Total1905,010,415

It is clear there is a considerable difference between counties. Deputy Crawford's area of Cavan-Monaghan received a great deal, whereas my area and that of Deputy Sherlock received much less. The grant aid is not consistent across all counties.

The European Commission has recently approved, under the State aid guidelines, the new NDP scheme of investment aid for the development of the commercial horticulture sector and applications are awaited at present. The closing date for receipt of applications under this scheme is 30 November 2007.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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When funding of this nature is allocated to growers, is the labour inspectorate involved in inspecting facilities where the potential for abuse of labour standards exists? Given that moneys are expended by the taxpayer and it has been documented that exploitation has taken place within this industry, is there interdepartmental co-operation on the issue of exploitation of labour in the sector?

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Minister of State with special responsibility for Food and Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Dublin North, Green Party)
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I have been very concerned by reports regarding abuse of labour law. I am also conscious of increasing labour and energy costs in the sector which have brought pressure but which have been somewhat alleviated by the influx of non-nationals into the sector. This has meant we need to be extremely vigilant to ensure the competitive nature of the sector is not pursued at the expense of anybody in a vulnerable position in our country.

With this in mind, I met on a number of occasions the Minister of State, Deputy Billy Kelleher, who has responsibility for labour law, and with whom I plan to meet again. I am hopeful I will be in a position to report progress and that we will have a system in place whereby there is not just an informal relationship but strong and clear lines of communication so that nobody who is in breach of any labour law will be in receipt of State aid.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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I have a procedural question. On a number of occasions, the time for questions has been changed. While we are happy to facilitate that process, I respectfully ask that in future we should keep to a more constant timeframe.

Photo of Mary CoughlanMary Coughlan (Minister, Department of Agriculture and Food; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
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I apologise to Members. Unfortunately, as the portfolio has increased, other issues have arisen. We will do our best. I greatly appreciate the Deputies' facilitation of the change.